Top 10 women in IT stories 2012

Read the top 10 women in IT stories for the year and see what the hottest debates surrounding gender were for 2012

The challenge ofattracting more women in to the technology sector has been an issue for some time now, but 2012 saw some interesting steps forward in the gender equality debate.

Below are some the biggest and most interesting women in IT stories to come out of 2012.

What the most influential women in IT had to say

This year Computer Weekly decided to hold an event to bring together some of the most influential women in IT. The Most Influential Women in UK IT event attracted over 90 women to the Doubletree Hilton hotel in London. It included several charismatic female speakers who discussed their experiences, within the industry, and the role that women play in IT.

Despite being an event to discuss women in IT, it was noted that there is a shortage in both male and female IT graduates.

One of the speakers, Baroness Pauline Neville Jones, former UK government cyber security chief, questioned: "Where are all the graduates? They are not being produced, both male and female.

"There is not a well marked career path. Instead, IT is considered as a dull job instead of young people realising that it can be a route up to serious management responsibilities."

The day also recognised the most influential role models and the top 25 most influential women in IT. Find out who came in pole position and view the full list here.

Everywoman Leadership Academy: Navigate your path to success

Computer Weekly was not the only one to hold a Women in IT event this year, as 2012 also saw the first the everywoman In Technology Leadership Academy. Taking place at Cisco’s Bedfont Lakes offices in Feltham the event attracted over 120 women for a series of keynotes, workshops and the opportunity to network.

Cisco everywoman in Technology Awards: The winners’ stories

Cisco also sponsored the everywoman in Technology Awards for 2012, which is designed to celebrate the UK’s most talented women working within the industry. Held at the Savoy, in London, the winners were selected by a panel of judges from within the IT industry, based on a demonstration of excellence within their field and for acting as role models to future generations.

How can we get more female representation on company boards?

A hot topic this year has been the need to get more female board members, within companies. The Prime Minster David Cameron gave a speech, at an event in Sweden, stating that he was not in favour of quotas to tackle the lack of female representation, but he will consider it if companies do not take action themselves.

He pointed out that there was overwhelming evidence that companies are run better when men and women work alongside each other. Currently, just 15% of the directors at major companies in the UK are women. In Sweden, women hold a quarter of board positions, and in Norway the percentage is even higher at 40%.

Why legislation alone is not enough

The European Commission’s plans to force mandatory quotas for women in the boardroom was opposed by Britain, along with eight other countries that said ensuring 40% of non-executive board seats filled by females was going a step too far.

The general view was that although gender legislation is vitally important to equal opportunities, should businesses really be forced to choose a woman over a man for the board, just so they fulfil a quota?

Do women want promotion based on merit or quotas?

Cameron had said that he would not rule out quotas, however it seems that most women have expressed that they would not be happy knowing they were added to a board to meet such targets.

Theresa May, the home secretary, said: "I've never wanted to get anywhere because I was part of a quota. I've wanted to get there because I'd worked hard for a job and because I deserved it." 

May also pointed out that progress is already being made without quotas. She said that the FTSE 250 boards now have at least one female member, which has happened without the need for quotas.

Men and women disagree on reasons why IT is less attractive to women

Research from Mortimer Spinks, conducted with Computer Weekly, found that men and women are in disagreement over the reasons why females may find a career in technology less attractive. The Women in Technology survey questioned 512 experienced technology professionals across the UK, of which 199 were female and 313 were male.

According to the survey, nine out ten (86%) female technology and IT experts would recommend the sector as a career choice to another female. 

However, three-quarters of women feel careers in technology are less attractive to female recruits because of concerns about the "macho" nature of technology teams and fear of being the only woman in a male-dominated department. In contrast, men see the geeky image that is associated with IT jobs as the biggest reason why women would find a career in technology less attractive than a man might. 

It's not clever to be clever

Despite the struggle of trying to attract girls to the technology sector, an issue raised at the Westminster Education Forum National Curriculum drew attention to the fact that most young girls do not think it is cool to be seen as clever. The event included IT professionals, teachers and educational bodies who discussed the government's decision to remove ICT from the school curriculum two years before the new computer science curriculum is rolled out.

The overall view was that young girls do not think it is cool to be seen as clever - they think being seen as intelligent and bright means they are social failures. A female member of the audience said some girls who are viewed as clever will try to hide their light under a bushel.

Sarah Lamb, founder of Girl Geek Dinners stressed that girls need more positive female role models to look towards, instead of the negative stereotypical images of women that are often portrayed by the media.

Creating a level playing field: Encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM subjects

The A-Level and GCSE results, this year, encouragingly revealed that more girls are now studying subjects like ICT, maths and science. These subjects have for too long been viewed as predominantly popular among men, with women opting for softer subjects such as English and art. It is therefore encouraging that this year has seen a bigger uptake in the number of girls studying science and maths which are subjects that many young women have traditionally shied away from.

How to encourage more women into engineering: IEEE WIE's three simple steps

This year also saw the IEEE and the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) unveil a three-step plan aimed a closing the gender gap in STEM careers. The steps are designed to inspire, encourage and empower women worldwide, into pursuing a career in engineering.

According to WIE, and therefore reflected in the three-step plan, females need early and constant exposures to engineering and the sciences. This should commence when a child starts school and follow her through until university. WIE also said that existing social obstacles need to be broken down, within the business world, and more role models are needed to inspire females into engineering.

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