International Women's Day offers an opportunity for the world to step back and look objectively at women's cultural, economic, political, and social achievements. However, it also shines a spotlight on issues of inequality and gender imbalances, many of which are particularly acute in the ICT industry.
According to a recent report commissioned by ANZ Bank, workforce participation across all industries for females in Australia is 59 per cent, compared to 71 per cent for men. Based on full-time earnings, women in Australia and New Zealand also earn 18.1 per cent less than men. Despite these inequities, women aged between 25-29 are more likely to have a university degree and tend to outnumber men in higher education.
According to Statista, while 44 per cent of all ICT professionals in Australia are female, that figure drops to only 29 per cent when the entire spectrum of ICT roles is taken into account. It is clear that - between pay gaps and gender imbalances, a range of issues are holding females back from joining and staying in the ICT industry here.
Therefore, as well as being a day to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere, it is also necessary to use IWD as a catalyst for examining these issues and using statistics like these to drive change.
Globalization Partners leads a worldwide drive to democratise opportunity for all and has a constant finger on the pulse of employment issues and therefore is well placed to comment on IWD.
Globalization Partners CRO, Diane Albano, shares these insights:
"IWD is a day to celebrate women and all of their successes everywhere, but it's also a call-to-action to help end gender bias, which, unfortunately, still is prevalent in the tech industry. Although many great women in tech have made a significant impact, there are still too many areas where women are underrepresented.
"We must encourage more women to enter into the tech industry by participating in STEM education as early as possible – with a focus on providing opportunities to girls in elementary or middle school. I'm proud to say there are far more female role models in science and technology today, and I look forward to a time when it will be the norm to see an equal number of men and women working in technology-related fields.
"Women should also follow their passions. I've always loved maths and science – and though I am not a technologist, I've been in hi-tech my entire career. It's not solely about engineering and development but also surrounding roles in sales, marketing, operations, etc.). And if your passion and drive are in engineering and development, then pursue it unabashedly.
"Finally, be assertive, confident, and vocal. Perception plays a major role in women's success. Being assertive and confident about your skillset and ideas will directly impact your colleagues' and superiors' professional perception of you. If a situation or 'cultural norm' seems wrong or unreasonable to you, then don't be afraid to challenge it.
"Sometimes, the status quo needs challenging. I have had an entire career of challenging the status quo and then working to improve the situation. Pursuit of progress towards a fair and equitable environment is always a worthy undertaking."
Globalization Partners CPO, Richa Gupta, adds this:
"As a proud immigrant who came to this country from India with just $4,000, a suitcase and a big dream, International Women's Day has very personal meaning to me. I realise how many women from other countries may not have had the opportunities to pursue a college education or business internship as I did when I first came to the US.
"These initial brave steps outside of my comfort zone became pivotal for me, leading to a career in HR for companies that all focused on democratisation – in pay, banking, innovation and technology, and now, in opportunity.
"As chief people officer for a platform that makes it easy to hire anyone, anywhere, no matter their nationality, education or background, I feel even more aligned with the mission of empowering women anywhere to pursue their dreams.
"Those dreams might include achieving an education or degree that allows them to work in technology or any chosen field, funding entrepreneurs to start their own home-based businesses or fighting for legislation that will ensure that women do not have to leave the workforce in the significant numbers they did due to the pandemic.
"Countless women chose to leave careers temporarily to focus on their children's needs while attending school from home or to support their families. These women sacrificed or put their own aspirations on hold, all to support parents or children who needed care. Many decided this based only on supporting whichever partner had the larger salary or better job security. Though equal pay is still a challenge, I'm proud that our company has policies in place to ensure equitable compensation for similar roles.
"We all know we have a long way to go towards equality for women worldwide. I do believe, however, that as the world of work continues to change and adapt, women (and all genders) in the 187+ countries in which we work, will help equal the playing field and offer equality of opportunity to ensure a more diverse workforce. I believe that if you include and offer chances to women in a variety of roles and fields globally, you automatically ensure global inclusivity."
So, while looking at achievements and successes, IWD also needs to be seen as a chance for wider industry examination. It presents an opportunity to evaluate the issues holding back wider female participation in the ICT landscape and the vast scope that the industry holds for interesting, rewarding careers.