Nearly three-quarters of women in the IT industry still believe that the sector fails to do enough to attractive female talent.
According to a survey conducted at the everywoman In Technology Leadership Academy recently, 77% said the sector should be doing more to encourage females into technology (see figure 1).
The everywoman In Technology Leadership Academy took place at Cisco’s Bedfont Lakes offices in Feltham last month, offering a series of keynotes, workshops and the opportunity to network with other women in the industry.
How to attract female talent?
Some of the suggestions from the 120 women surveyed included: Attracting girls at a younger age (school); promote women in leadership to make it the norm to the public eye; understand the business case behind gender diversity and demonstrate this; that technology is a creative and vibrant sector; visit universities and other industries; and acknowledge the rates of women so changes in culture can be made.
Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer (COO) at FDM Group, said it is interesting to see that 77% of attendees still feel the sector is not doing enough to attract female talent, considering many companies now have their own diversity campaigns.
FDM has a Women in IT initiative, which was introduced a year ago. Since then many other technology companies have introduced similar campaigns too.
“While this activity has been successful for FDM, as I’m sure it has in other companies, the wider environment still remains male dominated and I believe it will continue like this for the immediate future. The sector as a whole must work together to fight the common stereotypes that IT and technology have been given over the decades,” said Flavell.
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She added: “The technology industry is without a doubt the fastest moving industry in the world and has successfully moved from back-office to the forefront of business. The answers given by the attendees will help other companies in the industry join FDM’s fight to combat the lack of female IT and technology professionals.”
Career aspirations fulfilled
Encouragingly the survey found that 88% of women believe they can fulfill their career aspirations within the industry (see figure 2).
Lyn Grobler, vice-president and chief information officer (CIO) of functions at BP, said: “I am extremely pleased to see such a high percentage of women believe that they can fulfill their career aspirations within the industry. This really is an industry that offers a vast range of opportunities and flexibility across a wide range of locations and businesses.”
In addition, the results found that over half (52%) of women in the sector see their progression to the top of equal responsibility between themselves and their employers, 30% felt it is down to the institution and only 18% felt getting to the top is down to the individual (see figure 3).
“The key to reaching those aspirations does indeed lie with both the individual and the institution, as the results portray. At BP, we are consciously working to make our institution somewhere that allows all employees to reach their full potential and deliver their best performance,” added Grobler.
Flavell was surprised that only 18% of attendees believe that promotion is down to the responsibility of the individual: “From my experience, many of my peers and I wouldn’t have progressed to where we are now if it hadn’t been for our own determination, hard work and commitment.
“I wholeheartedly believe that each individual needs take control of his or her future. Of course, the institution makes the ultimate decision, however if you are making a positive difference within the company then they won’t want to lose you.”
Still harder for women to progress
Despite this, the perception that it is harder for a woman to progress to a senior role within the industry, was the opinion of 45% of the respondents. A third (30%) feel it is not difficult for neither men or women, 23% believe it is difficult for both genders, and only 2% believe it is more difficult for men to progress to senior roles (see figure 4).
Flavell explained that throughout her career she has always worked in a male-dominated environment. Shortly after Flavell joined the Glasgow police force, the city introduced equal pay: “The men in the force said that women should do the same job as them. I was one of the first women to be put out on the street on foot patrol and we were given the toughest, roughest areas to patrol. We were being set up to fail but today there are thousands of female officers out on patrol.
“The reason I recall this particular memory is because it highlights that women are determined and resilient and will progress if they do a job well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘more difficult than men;’ women shouldn’t be compared with men and men shouldn’t be compared with women. We are all individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses.”
There were mixed opinions about the challenges that face women in the sector. The majority (35%) said work/life balance, 30% said confidence/belief, 30% answered with culture and 5% said inequity in pay (see figure 5).
Flavell concluded: “Over 50% of my management team at FDM are female because they stood out and are good at what they do. They have showcased their knowledge and proven their managerial skills to the rest of the business and to me."
Of those surveyed, 36% had spent 11-16 years in the industry, 28% had spent one-five years, 18% said 6-10 years and 18% said they had worked in the sector for more than 16 years (see figure 6).
Commenting on the findings, Maxine Benson co-founder of everywoman said: "While the findings from this survey indicate that there is much to be done; we know that there is a desire to address these issues."
She explained that these statistics will in turn shape the discussion at a roundtable discussion that will be held on the morning of the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards on 19 March 2013.
"Senior executives from leading technology companies will address this key issue of what more can be done to ensure that we retain and attract female talent," said Benson.
She added that further academies, for 2013, will be announced shortly.
There is still time to enter the 2013 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. Entries close 19 November. You can find more information about the awards here.