The gender imbalance in the IT industry is one that still persists. How can business leaders and other organisations change this trend?
There is no simple solution to address the continued gender imbalance in the IT industry, as it takes concerted efforts at all levels of an organisation to create more supportive environments for all employees.
The good news is that there is a growing awareness of the issue, with many businesses and other organisations turning their attention to creating initiatives that result in an inclusive workplace.
Some of the current solutions proposed across the industry include leadership quotas, women-exclusive IT organisations and celebrity-backed campaigns that foster a commitment to employee equality. How effective are they in redefining gender equality for people working in IT?
Leaders encouraged to tackle the issue head on
McKinsey & Company investigated the role CEOs play in changing the proportion of women working in IT roles. According to the firm, these people have a great degree of influence over the rest of the industry, and change within one company can ripple further as other organisations catch on.
The consultancy advises that gender-equality initiatives are notably more successful when members of the C-Suite are involved as these people act as role models for the other members of the organisation.
Almost one-third (30 per cent) of respondents to McKinsey & Company’s survey on company-wide transformations said that in cases where they were they were successful, senior members spent more than half of their time ensuring this was so.
McKinsey & Company stated that executives should intervene in the way their company operates where possible, and ensure that internal processes aren’t limiting career advancement for women. In particular, members of the C-Suite need to mitigate the impact maternity leave and requirements for promotion have on the way women advance in an organisation.
It’s all about the attitude
The drive for creating equality in the IT workspace depends on more than just managing internal processes. There are wider factors that are having a defining influence on the way women approach jobs.
The Ban Bossy campaign seeks to address one of the main issues regarding how women are perceived in the workplace. In many cases, it’s negative attitudes that are the biggest barriers to inclusive workforces.
According to Ban Bossy, the organisation wants to abolish the use of the word “bossy” due to the negative connotations now associated with the term. Ban Bossy believes the implications surrounding the use of this word are impacting assertiveness in women, and reducing their drive to become leaders.
Ban Bossy discovered there is a notable difference between the confidence boys and girls possess as they head into their teen years. The organisation found girls’ self esteem between primary and intermediate school drops three and a half times faster than boys’, a fact that needs to be addressed to ensure women enter the workforce with leadership aspirations.
Even global superstar Beyonce supports the campaign, with the singer releasing a video with the tag line “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss”, encouraging women to reverse the negative implications of the term.
Skill development creates IT opportunities
Deloitte recently partnered with LifeJourney to create the Day of STEM initiative which will celebrate and encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in the Australian population.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of these skills within Australia’s students, better preparing them for future careers in the IT industry. It has an important impact on the gender balance of the country’s workforce as well. According to Deloitte, the number of candidates around Australia with these skills is decreasing, and men still hold an overwhelming majority.
Deloitte found that just 18 per cent of Australia’s workforce possess STEM skills. On top of this, 81 per cent of these people are male, leaving a just a small portion of women with the skills necessary to pursue IT jobs.
Risk Advisory Partner Matt Saines believes this is an important statistic to reverse, as STEM skills are necessary for a wide range of occupations.
“STEM education is one of Australia’s most pressing workforce challenges,” he explained.
“It touches every aspect of our economy, from telecommunications and mining technologies to cybersecurity, and as a LifeJourney partner, Deloitte will provide its own mentors in cybersecurity and technology consulting to expose students to real-world careers and show them how the things they are already passionate about might align with the skills we will need in the future.”
Day of STEM will allow students around Australia to gain real-world experience of how these skills function in the workplace, giving them the knowledge they require to make the decisions that are best for their future careers.
The program doesn’t begin until next year, giving schools and other education institutions time to evaluate its potential worth.
As the demand for IT jobs grows throughout Australia, programs such as this are likely to be the difference between having a workforce that is prepared to deal with evolving tech trends and one that isn’t.