IWD 2021: What does the IT industry need to do to attract more women in the years ahead?
The IT industry needs to get involved with educational institutes to provide early careers advice and promote Tech/ STEM roles and career pathways. The industry needs to be aware of what is available, and the benefits this involvement can bring about at micro and macro levels.
At the same time, both industry and academia need to consider options of work placement for students to provide real-life experience of what a role in IT could look like. Offering these experiences earlier for students and looking to increase the availability of traineeships in technology would be a step forward.
Another useful step forward would be publicising the variety of career opportunities in tech as well as opportunities for engineers. There are fantastic roles in leadership, sales, project management, consulting, marketing, and HR, all within the tech industry.
At the same time, we need to actively create working environments that are attractive to women, including flexible working arrangements and equal opportunities for career development and salary.
So what do IT companies need to do to ensure that more women have the opportunity to achieve senior leadership roles within their organisations?
IT companies need to ensure there are mentoring programs in place for women, and that there is an advocate for them with the business or industry that can champion women in backing themselves and apply for higher-level roles. There also needs to be a genuine commitment from the top of organisations in seeing the benefit that gender diversity, indeed diversity in general, can bring about for the organisation.
Organisations should have targeted leadership development plans in place and provide opportunities for women to act in higher-order roles or projects to boost their profiles and experience.
Management should have a clear understanding of what leadership looks like for an organisation by way of competency and capability and being able to identify individuals who have the potential. An emerging Leaders program is an excellent way to develop those with the potential as an example.
Finally, there should be ongoing equal opportunities initiatives around ceilings and pay brackets within the industry.
What is the role of government in attracting more women into STEM-based qualifications?
Government should set the broader direction for women in STEM and lead the way for industry and education sectors. The Australian Government's Action Plan for 2020 to Advance Women in STEM is a great example of this.
At the same time, governments should provide funding and incentives to enable industry and educational institutes to better promote and attract women into STEM study and roles.
Finally, our national leadership should also play a part in demonstrating the breadth of career paths and opportunities available with these qualifications.
What can women do to support themselves and their peers drive a more diverse and inclusive IT industry in Australia?
We need to advocate for each other, encouraging and support each other in the workplace and at an Industry level. Being our own champions, showcasing our own and each other's talents are all critical.
We also need to be louder about the benefits that women (gender diversity) in tech (or any industry for that matter) can bring about. Forums such as Women in Tech/ IT is one great way to raise the profile and importance of gender diversity in IT.
Another way forward is to be much more active with influential publications and media that showcase the successes of women in tech and the long-term opportunities available. We need to share stories of triumph on social platforms such as LinkedIn and demonstrate support for fellow peers.
How to get more women interested in tech
We need to make IT work accessible — offering a range of pathways to commence work or study in IT in areas such as traineeships and return-to-work programs. The workplace needs to be more flexible to assist with the demands of different life stages. This is relevant for all genders.
Moving forward, ensuring our workplace cultures are progressive, open and embrace diversity to reduce barriers for everyone (not just women) and showcasing the softer skills required to be successful in tech roles, such as empathy in team leadership, aesthetics in design and strong organisation skills, is food for thought too for the IT industry this International Women's Day.