There is no lack of jobs in ICT. But yet, there are decreasing numbers of women joining or remaining in the ICT workforce, according to ServiceNow senior enterprise strategist, Jeannine McConnell.
McConnell attributed findings from recent studies, which found that , 49.5 per cent of the global population of women are not interested in pursuing the millions of technology jobs in the not too distant future that are going to go unfilled.
“We all understand there’s an issue with women in technology. These are incredibly challenging, compelling and lucrative positions but women aren’t stepping up to these roles. The implications of this are staggering.
“If we do not find a way to bridge this pipeline gap, the economic impact in the US itself is estimated to be $US160 billion annually. That’s productivity that’s not being delivered; income that’s not being spent and we’ve also got to think about the impact on women and the ability to earn a comfortable income,” she said.
McConnell mentioned people need to transform the sphere of influence to think differently about how women are perceived, how they advance, and how they can find satisfying, lucrative careers in technology.
“By 2018, there will be 190,000 unfilled analytics jobs. Over the next 2 years, there will be 1 million more computing jobs than students graduating to fill them to the potential loss of 500 billion annually. It breaks my heart that young women aren’t seeing this as a viable alternative.
“That’s staggering. Look at the opportunity there for young women coming up to the ranks to fill those holes,” she said.
In Australia, there is a massive skilled crisis with a projected 100,000 IT workers needed for the next several years.
But McConnell said there are women leaving tech positions due to a number of reasons – 56 per cent of women leave tech companies in their mid-career due to working conditions, a lack of work-life balance, lost interest in work, and the environment of the company.
“If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you’re not paying attention. These women end up in non-technical jobs, they take their skills someplace else.
“What this tells me, is that there are lucrative, exciting, valuable contributions to society through technology that women are not injecting themselves into. It’s not happening and we’re all going to be worse off because of that.”
According to McConnell steps need to be taken to educate, engage and empower women in and into ICT.
For education, she suggested a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts, and Mathematics) education instead of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.
“STEAM is the new STEM. If you look at STEM education in Australia, only 3900 girls are studying in this field as opposed to 14,600 males. So what STEAM does is encourage women to bring their artistic thinking into it. That drives innovation,” she said.
In terms of engagement, she said the limelight shouldn’t be on everything geeky.
“It has all been about chic coders, geeky girl coding, etc. It’s not all about coding, and that shouldn’t be our main focus. One area where we all short change our young women is exposing them to the diversity of jobs available in technology. Coding is fabulous, but so is tech project management, data analytics, digital marketing, technical sales and pre-sales, consulting, and business relationship management.
“I agree that we should be encouraging girls into technology. But, there’s such diversity on what we can do within technology but we seem to be routing the girls only towards coding. You don’t have to act like a man, look like a man or work like a man. You can still be a non-geeky woman and be able to control the situation,” she added.
She also said to increase personal engagement, women should join advocacy groups, and if they didn’t exist, start one. She said that should then be taken out to schools to increase STEAM engagement.
In terms of empowerment, she said the industry needs to think about how to stop the evaporation of talent - how do we build a community or networks?
“It’s a double edged sword – women are not partaking in ICT and when they do, are being paid less than their male counterparts. We need to get that disparity up. Women are being judged differently than men in the same role.
“We need to think about these things to keep women in the career paths they have chosen. Be a role model, be a mentor. Or get one or a few mentors that are working in ICT. We also need to ensure there’s a collaborative environment as opposed to a competitive environment amongst us women,” she added.