There are fewer and fewer women entering the Information, Communication and Technology industry. It’s a problem that’s been going on for years and years and still continues to this day. Here Catriona Walkerden, marketing lead at Females in IT and Telecommunications (FITT) Management Committee, talks about the reasons behind this issue and what can be done to correct it.
Why is this problem important?
The fact that there are fewer women entering the IT profession isn’t good for anyone, particularly as the technology industry has become one of the most exciting industries there is to work in, on the precipice of ground-breaking innovations in health, education and enhancing the ways we work and live. To have women under-represented in such an important sector, both at the grass roots and leadership levels, means the industry is missing out on valuable human capital and insights. There are many studies that highlight the economic and company culture benefits to having a gender diverse workforce, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has developed a compelling document on this, including case studies from multinational organisations and research from around the world, all pointing to the fact that having women in leadership, teams and business in general serves business better than without.
Why should we care?
Because the situation becomes compounded. The fewer women working in the industry, the less appealing it becomes for those who want to join. FITT’s annual corporate diversity report captures the sentiment of women working in IT in Australia and for the last three years in a row, members have cited the ‘male dominated environment’ as one barrier to their success. Additionally, they placed a high level of importance on ‘having senior women visible as role models’ within their organisations, to give them something to aspire to but also so their needs are represented within the organisation.
Why are there very few entering the industry?
There are a couple of reasons why there are so few women entering into the industry. One, there are much fewer women than men taking, for example, engineering or science and maths at university so the graduate technical roles within IT organisations are largely taken up by men. But the IT industry also has an image problem in its appeal to women. It’s still trying to shake off the geeky male engineer image and, of course, being male dominated is not always accessible for women who traditionally need more flexible working options.
How do we fix this?
As a society we need to encourage more young girls to consider a career in IT and prep them for what they need to study for to achieve success on that path. In the 2015 FITT diversity report, 50 per cent of women said they ‘fell into’ a career in ICT. More needs to be done to show young women the possibilities in a career within ICT early on.
What does your organisation do to help this situation?
FITT’s mission is to attract and retain women to the ICT industry and we do this by providing networking opportunities and access to female role models in the industry through our events and webinars. We also run an annual mentoring program which matches mentees with a senior mentor in the industry for guided one on one mentoring. In addition, we publish a diversity report taken from our annual member survey and share this with our corporate partners to feed into their own diversity initiatives.
In short, the only way we can ensure there is a new generation of ICT women is to make the industry more accessible through flexible working and ensure when roles come up, there is a fair effort to ensure a female is on the shortlist. The same goes for internal promotions and definitely for leadership. The new generation needs to be able to see high profile female leaders and feel confident it is a possibility for them.