According to according to John Ridge, Executive Director of the Australian Computer Society Foundation Trust Fund (ACSF), ‘Women won’t apply for IT jobs unless they are certain they meet every single criterion for the gig,’ Is this true across the technology sector or has it been always seen as a male dominated sector due to the roles being geeky or not a profession that was once not an option of discussion by Career Councillors to female students.
It’s an important question: why are there so few women working in the IT and telecoms sector? It might be one of the rare times that The Guardian has actually asked an interesting question in fact. The answer is, I’m afraid, that on average men and women are different.
Why is it that, while women make up 49% of the UK labour force, they account for just 17% of IT and telecom professionals? What’s more, the promotion and visibility of Marissa Mayer, the recently promoted Yahoo chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the number two at Facebook, comes as the number of women in the industry in the UK at least has been falling over the past 10 years. Why?
Leave aside that mention of Sandberg there. That’s not what is normally meant. Sandberg is an economist with an MBA who happens to work in a tech company. She’s there to run the business, not code or engineer which is what we normally mean by working in IT.
There are more women starting tech companies this is true. And there are more women working in such tech companies: but generally in those financial management or marketing roles rather than in the hard engineering side.
Societal pressure for women to avoid computing begins at an extremely early age. Preschoolers already have conceptions about which jobs are men’s jobs, and which jobs are women’s. An excellent review of studies documenting gender role socialization from an early age can be found in Dr. Ellen Spertus’s excellent “Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists?” paper: http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/ellens/Gender/pap/node6.html
Lack of female role models
Women in computing do exist, but most people aren’t lucky enough to meet a female computer scientist. Women are socialized to be modest and avoid self-promotion, which makes them even less visible than they might otherwise be. Mothers and female schoolteachers regularly protest that they don’t know anything about computers. As a result, girls grow up without examples of women who are either competent or confident with computers. I encourage all women in computing to be as visible as possible–accept all interviews, take credit publicly–even when you don’t want to. You may be embarrassed, but by allowing yourself to be publicized or promoted, you might change a young girl’s life.
As both the Guardian and Forbes indicate, Sheryl Sandberg has been catapulted into prime time awareness due to her role at Facebook. She is a COO and is leading the march for technology companies to employ women at the helm but not in a technical sense. Is she accessible to the likes of us? Probably not as Facebook still progresses to be one of the largest Social Media and IT companies on the planet. Let’s not forget about the recent appointment of Marissa Mayer as Yahoo!’s new CEO.
Here at WeAreTheCity/Careers City, we believe there is a wealth of female IT role models, plus also accessible. From Maggie Berry (Founder of Women in Technology) to Silka Patel, Director at Cisco EMEA. Silka previously stated that the Technology business really is the most diverse and more family friendly due to the flexibility that technology offers, long gone are the standard 9-5 days in the office but we are now in the midst of technology driving behaviours in the work place and the way we make business successful.
‘Technology businesses really encourage flexible working styles that are more family-friendly and very productive. I’ve often had line managers who were based overseas, but I could work with them effectively using the technology. As I moved along my life journey by marrying, moving to Scotland and then becoming a mother, I was able to continue my work as there were no boundaries placed upon me due to the nature of the industry. – Silka Patel – Cisco
So why do we still find it difficult to balance the IT workforce and attract female talent into the leading sector of industry?
It’s not going to be easy or quick, but the more the media pick up on the good news stories of female senior IT appointments, changing the way we sub-consciously lead the young into non IT interests and perhaps those already in the IT industry to embrace and recognise what they are missing we may be able to provide a future pool of female talent who can help develop the next decade of technological advances. Either way it is great to see more people writing about women in IT and showcasing to the world talented women and female role models within the sector.
At Careers City we are partnering with companies who are also passionate about attracting and developing female talent in IT.
Take a look at the latest vacancies that companies are interested in you coming on board now.
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