Role Models in Tech

Gender Imbalance in Digital Technology

Carron Shankland

This SDS-sponsored project is a partnership led by University of Stirling, with Edinburgh Napier University, and Ada Scotland Festival. The project builds on Skills Development Scotland’s (SDS) ongoing work to understand the causes of the current gender imbalance in digital technology roles in Scotland and to identify what works to address this imbalance.

Initial data on role model initiatives have now been published! You may browse our database of initiatives here. If you’ve developed or delivered an activity to encourage girls and women to consider studying digital technology subjects (including computing, cyber etc.), you can still add your initiative to our database.


Specifically, this short study investigates initiatives which aim to encourage more girls and women to study computing/ IT/ digital technology subjects. We’re especially (but not exclusively) interested in how initiatives (including events and marketing) use role models in some way.

The aim is to identify success factors, primarily by creating and analysing a database of initiatives in Scotland. A student survey will provide additional data about what works. We can then identify good practice and share effective examples. The outputs will be published on the Ada Scotland Festival website and shared widely across relevant networks.


The number of women participating in technology in Scotland remains stubbornly low. To be at the forefront of digital technology, Scotland needs 11,000 more technology graduates of all types per year (ScotlandIS 2019). Diverse teams provide better (more widely-applicable, more profitable) tech solutions, and we have an under-utilised pool of talented women who are currently going into other fields. Despite many initiatives to encourage women into computing courses, there is little evidence of what works.

Role models

Setting up local networks on smart phones

Role models are identified here because lots of initiatives use them in some way. Role models provide representations of possible selves and possible future selves, helping us consider what we value and what we might become (Bandura 1971; Croft, Schmader, and Block 2015; Markus and Nurius 1986 ). Their use may range from a strategy to show female students and staff in marketing material to live Q&A sessions with women studying or working in STEM to awards and events celebrating women in tech. We use roles models to raise awareness (of the field, of women in that field), aspirations (as above), and to challenge and overcome stereotypes (implicitly or explicitly).

While role models is the central theme of the project, we’re collecting data about all your inititatives, whether they aim to use role models or not.

Project Team

The team is led by Prof Carron Shankland (University of Stirling), with Dr Camilla Barnett (University of Stirling), Prof Sally Smith and Dr Ella Taylor-Smith (Edinburgh Napier University) and Dr Matthew Barr (Ada Scotland Festival).

Get involved

  • Student survey (18th February to 14th March 2021): We are asking computing and digital technology students and apprentices, who identify as female, to complete a brief survey about their experiences. Please contact us if you are within this category or can help to distribute the survey.
  • Edit-a-thon of activities (24th February to 19th March 2021): If you’ve been involved in an activity to encourage girls and women to consider studying digital technology subjects (including computing, cyber etc.), please add your initiative to our database. Each initiative will take about 30 minutes to add. We’d love you to add as many as you feel able and we can help you complete the template in the most convenient way for you.
  • Workshop (Monday 29th March 3-4:30): to review early findings and to draw themes from the gathered initiatives.

More information and get involved

Contact Professor Carron Shankland: