It's common knowledge that the ICT industry suffers from a serious gender imbalance internationally and here in Australia. Women hold 34 per cent of ICT management and operations roles in this country, 29 per cent of ICT sales roles and just 26 per cent of technical and professional roles, according to one 2021 study.
I frequently hear business leaders say they'd love to welcome more women into their high tech ranks, but too few of us apply when the jobs are up for grabs. That may be true, but it's not an insoluble problem, at least not from where I sit, as a woman who segued into the sector several years ago, after spending her early career years in marketing.
I believe there is a number of things ICT organisations that are serious about evening up the male to female ratio can do to attract more quality female applicants. Here are four of them.
Making job advertisements less macho
Language is powerful. It can shape the way we perceive the world and our place in it. Unfortunately, many position descriptions for ICT roles have a decidedly male flavour about them, particularly those in the sales sphere. That can be a deterrent for women, even if subconsciously – and even if they're the sort of high energy ‘sales gun' the organisation is seeking. Striving to use more gender-neutral language, perhaps with the help of the HR department, could help more women visualise themselves performing in those roles and building successful careers in the high tech space.
Offering female-focused benefits
Privileging women over men certainly isn't the answer to gender inequality in the workplace or society at large but does a female-centric benefit like period leave constitute a privilege? Opinions will undoubtedly vary. For my part, I see it as a way that companies can support their female employees manage an immutable fact of life. Those willing and able to allow them to work from home or take a few extra days off each year outside their annual and sick leave entitlements will likely see a bump in applications from appreciative under-50s women.
Putting women at the top
Most of us research a potential new employer before applying for a role, and very often, that research includes looking at the structure and composition of the management and leadership teams. Seeing women occupying a goodly number of those roles in an ICT organisation can help other women feel more confident about applying for a position there.
That's certainly been my take when I've looked to change jobs in the past. If I see a sea of male faces, my immediate thought is how much harder I'll need to fight to overcome the boys' club bias and have the value I know I can bring to the table acknowledged and appreciated.
Providing mentoring opportunities
We, women, are often big team players, slow to self promote or push our own interests. That's to our detriment, though, when it comes to moving up the ranks. Encouragement from someone more senior who's travelled the same path can be invaluable, giving us the reassurance we need that we're doing the right things and the confidence to back ourselves when opportunities to step up arise.
For example, being asked to join Barracuda's pilot mentoring program two years ago, and being paired with a female vice president from our US head office, has been a game-changer for me in acquiring the presentation, negotiation and management skills I need to keep advancing my career. Other ICT companies that want to see more dedicated, ambitious women joining their ranks would do well to take similar steps to nurture and support them.
Article by Barracuda ANZ territory account executive, Angelina Liu.