IT sector joins forces to remove barriers to women

IT sector joins forces to remove barriers to women

A group of eight IT providers has teamed together for a cross-organizational mentoring program to accelerate the development of female executives in the technology sector.

The managing directors of Dell, Altiris, Cisco, EMC, Ingram Micro, Intel, LAN Systems and Lexmark, have launched the inaugural Women in IT Executive Mentoring (Witem) Program.

The 12-month pilot is designed to address a number of barriers to women's advancement such as a lack of general management experience, exclusion from informal networks and stereotypes about women's roles and abilities.

The proportion of females of the Australian labour workforce is about 44 per cent; however, the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show women make up only 20.5 percent of the IT workforce.

This compares to accounting and finance with 42.2 percent, and media and the arts with 56.9 percent.

Additionally, in recent years the proportion of women studying computer science has been around 25 percent and declining.

The Witem Program has been endorsed by IT Minister Senator Helen Coonan, following the recent partICipaTion summit held on September 22, 2005. The summit looked at ways to encourage more women and young people into Australia's information and communications technology sector.

"The Witem Program is exactly the type of proactive program we had hoped the recent partICipaTion summit would encourage" said Senator Coonan. "I applaud the participating organizations for this initiative, in particular Dell which has been the driving force behind the program."

Mentees will be carefully selected for their experience, commitment and drive for progression. In turn they will receive coaching and visibility from senior executives within the industry, accelerated career development, improvements in existing skills and performance, ongoing involvement in cross organizational networks, and a clear career path as defined by them.

Dell Australia managing director Joe Kremer said the diminishing role of women in IT has been cause for much discussion yet relatively little action. "Ultimately our goal is to establish a legacy of cross-organizational corporate culture that facilitates the sharing of ideas and experience, increases loyalty and commitment by employees, and fosters an environment that attracts, retains and progresses female talent," he said.

Other organizations continue to express interest in the Witem Program and it is expected the participating number of companies will double over the next 12 months.

All participants will work closely with Orijen, a mentoring specialist consultancy group, which will facilitate the program to ensure maximum benefit is derived by both mentors and mentees.

Participating organizations and mentors include: Altiris - Geoff Masters; Cisco - Ross Fowler; Dell - Joe Kremer; EMC - David Webster; Ingram Micro - Guy Freeland; Intel - Philip Cronin; LAN Systems - Wendy O'Keeffe; Lexmark - Graham Kittle.

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