Women are still under represented in the IT community, whether in management, project, consultancy, infrastructure, technical or development roles. Big tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft all hover around the 70:30 male to female ratio mark. However, it doesn’t appear to be a selection issue, more a recruitment issue. From my own experience, and that of many of my female colleagues, the IT sector generally fails to appeal to women.
The majority of women in SYSPRO Europe along with myself, fell into IT. Our natural tendency towards project management, planning, process, organization, logical thinking, pushed us into IT roles within organizations. Following which we caught the bug and found roles within the IT sector. This approach limits the potential roles, those that require a detailed level of technical learning are much more difficult to move into without taking a step back, returning to education and taking a salary cut (which just isn’t an option for most people). Hence women are far greater represented in project management, support and analytical roles, and much less represented in technical and development roles.
Does this matter? In many ways it doesn’t, most skills valued in IT belong to both genders and are much more related to individual attributes than gender, but by not attracting women to the industry, we are missing out on a huge number of people with the potential to be brilliant.
So then, how do you attract more women into IT? Part of the solution rests with the education system, attracting women into the right degree courses in development, computer science for example, making it cool for women to be geeks. The industry then needs to make sure that it appeals to both genders for graduate programs and internships, with plenty of female role models working with universities on partner programs. Our UK and Africa teams support such programs.
Once in IT organizations, assigning female mentors to new female IT staff is helpful, providing appropriate working environments to make sure women feel comfortable, particularly if the majority of other staff is male, is essential. Training and support after maternity leave is critical to keep women in the labor force after their 30s.
As a woman in IT, I have had a very successful and rewarding career, worked in many different businesses and travelled all over the world. The challenge, the variety, the intellectual application and the fun couldn’t possibly be rivaled by any other industry.