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The need to keep women from falling out of the IT world

The discovery that women often fall into IT is one that got the attention of Billy MacInnes who hopes that more can be convinced to stay

The Ivanti Women in Technology Survey provides an interesting snapshot of the state of gender equality in the IT industry today.

Some of the findings, from a survey of more than 500 women working in IT globally, aren’t that surprising, which says a lot about the very common gender discrimination that women face in so many industries. For instance, should we really be shocked that 63% respondents cited “being taken seriously in the industry due to gender perceptions” as the biggest challenge facing women in technology? I would be shocked if anyone was.

The report quotes feedback from networking events where women complain of “having their suggestions dismissed, being constantly interrupted in meetings, to being overlooked for promotion in favour of male counterparts”. That’s not something they’ve made up. This may be why, in answer to a separate question on what advice they would give to a female starting a career in technology, 82% said “know your worth”.

As the report notes: “Women frequently struggle to take credit for, or be openly proud of the work they do, while their male counterparts may be more inclined to be vocal about their achievements.” It adds that some character traits considered a strength in men or to demonstrate an affinity for leadership are dismissed as “bossy” or “arrogant” when exhibited by women.

The survey also reveals that more than a third of women believe the gender pay gap and sexism in the workplace are major issues. The only surprising thing here is that it isn’t higher, especially when you set it against the 74% who said paying women the same as men was the best way for organisations to attract more females into the technology industry, just ahead of the 70% who said they should “listen to, engage with and encourage women in their organisation/industry”.

The issue with pay and advancement is reinforced by the finding that only 24% identified it as one of the best things about being a woman in technology. Most women (67%) said that making a positive impact on their organisation was the best aspect of working in technology.

The lack of female role models is another issue for women in technology. This is borne out by research from Microsoft which found 46% of young girls would be more interested in STEM if inspired by a female peer and three out of five girls with strong role models in their lives could imagine a future career in STEM. According to the survey, only 3.5% were inspired to get in to technology by a role model at school or university.

According to Ivanti, “one of the most shocking statistics” from the survey is that 46% of women said they “just fell into” technology. But it’s more understandable than shocking if there are so few female role models and very little effort is put into inspiring, encouraging and steering young women into IT careers.

“If we can encourage more girls to take up technology in higher education, we will witness a growth of women in technology,” the report states. “Simultaneously, we need to ensure that once they make the first small step into a technology role, they have peers and role models to aspire to who help them progress and build a successful career in technology.”

It’s not going to be an overnight phenomenon but if, in the meantime, women keep falling into technology, the industry should do its best to find ways to make it a better place for them to work – and to keep them from falling out of it.

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