International Women's Day - where are we with IT?

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! Today is a day for celebrating the achievements of women – but also for thinking about the future.

Seeing as though it’s a day for celebration, let’s start with the positives. Women in the IT industry have made great progress. There are some brilliant female role models in our sector, and IT is increasingly being recognised as a great career option for women. We’ve also got more legislation in place to protect women in the workplace than ever before, and more and more calls for greater diversity and more women in the boardroom.

There is, however, a ‘but’. As we know, although there has been progress, there is still lots of room for improvement.

When we look back to the 1980s, how much has really changed? Professors Gillian Lovegrove and Wendy Hall published a paper in 1987 entitled “Where Are the Girls Now” which examined the reasons behind school aged girls not choosing to study computer science at university. They found that girls were not motivated to take computer science classes, making it less likely that they would embark on a career in computing. Sound familiar? They also reported that many school aged girls, their parents and careers advisors shared a commonly held opinion that computer science degrees were simply about programming and were for boys – a view that is probably still held by many.

The paper recommended that careers advisors in schools should be made more aware of the opportunities for girls in computing and the IT industry. But has this happened? This is still something that needs to be improved.

Looking forward then, what do the next 25 years hold? With organisations like Women in Technology, Nick Clegg planning to amend legislation for parental leave and more calls for an increase in senior women from the Davies Report, the answer is: hopefully, a boost in the number of women in male dominated industries like IT. And more of those women holding senior positions.