In this technology-oriented society, IT workers are now comparable to builders, plumbers and other technicians of traditional society. These are the individuals upon which 22 million UK employees who use IT in their daily work rely on to get their jobs done.
T workers have become the functional backbone of companies across the UK and Ireland.
Unfortunately, in these days of equality, the IT sector is dominated by men.
Although not a “physically” demanding sector, IT is generally seen to be a “man thing”.
If women are so reluctant to embrace a career in ICT and work in technology, does this simply mean that they are unfit for it?
According to a 2009 report by BCS (the chartered institute for IT), entitled Women in IT Scorecard:
…females taking IT related qualifications in Secondary Education (…) consistently outperform their male counterparts and therefore if females were more inclined to participate in IT careers then the pool of talent available to IT employers might improve noticeably.
So, yes, we women are better than you guys.
However only 21% of IT professionals in the UK are women these days and according to the report only 15% of applicants for computer science/IT related degrees were female in 2007 in UK.
In some way the image of the classical IT worker is influencing young girls to avoid this sector. Who would want to be a geek glued to their computer 24/7 dealing with mathematical stuff and unable to communicate with the common people in real life?
Yes, the cliché of the secluded geek is still alive. Moreover, we tend to associate technology with lack of physical communication and interaction. Women who like to communicate and share ideas would rather more likely to work in admin or creative sectors than in IT.
Women may also be unconsciously influenced by their social background or culture and they deliberately avoid sectors they are not familiar with. They tend to do what they think is expected of them in terms of social perception.
And for those who risk venturing in the “chauvinist” sector of IT, they can face disappointment.
The gender pay gap is one of the main disappointments women face. Female IT professionals working full time earn on average 13% less than their male equivalent, according to BCS report.
A study published in 2011 and entitled Women’s careers in the technology industry shows that female IT professionals tend to leave their job mainly because of better career progression elsewhere (51%).
Moreover, the second reason for leaving was lack of internal promotion (33%). Absence of salary increase only comes 4th on the list with 28% of surveyed women saying that was the main reason why they left.
Overall, only a 5% of the study’s respondents have said they left their previous company for maternity reasons.
Evidently, women seek value and recognition for their talents. They appear to be at least as capable as their male counterparts, and in some cases even moreso.
Education professionals should make ICT sector more attractive to students. Promotion of IT in schools could one key to a wider visibility of women in the sector.
Youngsters need to discard the obsolete idea that ICT involves mostly maths and boring programming scripts.
Call centers, the stepping-stone to IT jobs
IT support opportunities on the island of Ireland are flourishing. Whether in Belfast with Microsoft or in Dublin (a veritable European Silicon Valley), the IT sector is resisting the global economic crisis.
Mostly filled with entry level jobs such as customer service in IT product support (software, tablets, etc), these positions recruit lots of female professionals.
Just a tour through the Google offices in Dublin will give you an idea of how many women in Ireland look forward to working in technology.
Many of these women are not Irish but come from other European countries or beyond, who have been recruited for their language skills.
These young professionals have migrated to Ireland to avoid persistent unemployment in their home countries and have finally found this opportunity in the technology sector.
In this economically challenging society, IT is one of the only sectors that is hiring. While other countries fail to provide enough jobs for their citizens and are not attractive enough to deliver optimum conditions to international firms, Ireland is the promised land for unemployed professionals willing to go back on the saddle.
The problem in France
As a French national, I’ve witnessed the poor state of female representation in IT jobs in my own country: women are well under-represented.
In 2009, only 117 400 women were IT engineers in France (en français), which is 1.14% less than the year before. The number was higher 30 years ago when the national council for engineers and scientists in France (le Conseil national des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France) counted 20% of women among the IT engineers (11% today).
As for French IT schools, they only count 10% of female students nowadays. The reasons are the same as in the UK: lack of information and stereotypes about IT. Women are also expectably less paid than men. As this article on the French IT website http://www.commentcamarche.net explained it in December 2010, “women are paid 20% less than their male counterparts in IT jobs”.
While some categories in the technology industry might be taken over by females (marketing, communication, advertising in digital media or even sales), women in IT engineering are fewer than expected.
Jessica Gauzi, a French web/E-commerce professional, thinks women themselves are responsible for this:
Somehow, this is our own fault. We often underestimate ourselves. As for the recruiters, it is a constant battle to prove them that we are motivated and that it isn’t because we are a couple (so potentially “parents”) or that we have children, that we will work less. It still is an obstacle I believe in our patriarchal societies.
Along with other French IT female professionals, Jessica is militating for more women representation in IT in France via the website http://girlzinweb.com.
We need simple actions to change attitudes. By sharing positive success stories of women in tech, by introducing our businesses to students or young graduates, and by helping each other to evolve and learn, we will succeed in balancing this gender power. Women will then dare more in this sector and entail others with them.
Indeed, the solution relies on this new generation of future workforce also called Z generation, which has been familiarized with computing at an early stage.
Sohini Gogel, Project director in Blast Radius Paris (and guest for this afternoon’s #DigitalLunch), a global strategic digital agency:
“With the digital natives or the Z generation, the trend is changing. For this babies born with the technology era, used to their cellphones, laptop, tablets etc, the IT is more natural and attractive thus we can expect more ladies in the game in the near future”
Women in technology are not a lost cause then. The blogosphere already attracts lots of women and social media is the main tool for this very communicative generation.
The Internet rolled out to the masses 30 years ago, maybe it will be necessary at least 2 generations for it to welcome a large female workforce.
The trend has already started as http://www.womenintechnology.co.uk reports in this article from June 2011:
…there has been a 165 per cent increase in the number of women working in the digital sector, nearly half of which are in design and programming jobs. Ten per cent of women were found to work in database development, while nine per cent work in web development jobs and a further nine per cent in flash programming.
Let’s hope that this tendency will be confirmed in the near future and this new generation of professional ladies will be as ambitious as we have ever been.
Join us at 2pm this afternoon for this week’s #DigitalLunch on women in technology… if you want to join us you’ll need to be on Google Plus, and then circle Mick at gplus.to/mickfealty or watch us live (and punt us your questions) on YouTube here.