IT is an industry that is too often associated with men, but that shouldn’t be the case. So what can and should be done to redress the balance?
In an interview in 2007 Karen Sparck Jones, former Professor of Computers and Information at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, uttered the incredibly prescient phrase “computing is too important to be left to men.”
She went on to say “I think women bring a different perspective to computing, they are more thoughtful and less inclined to go straight for technical fixes.”
However, the number of women in the IT industry still doesn’t reflect just how important IT is to society. A recent survey has shown that only 18% of UK students on computing courses are female and according to the Women in Business 2015 report by Grant Thornton only 22% of senior roles are held by women, which is down from 24% on the previous year.
On top of this only 9% of the engineering workforce is female and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians (i.e. CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women, according to the WES Statistics document. This needs to change.
Diversity makes it better for everyone, not just women coming into IT
“It is critical that we inspire change across the globe as attracting women to embark on careers in science, technology and engineering are vital factors in building strong economies. There is clear evidence that diverse teams create better solutions and play key roles in making new technologies more useful and bringing them to markets successfully,” said Bernadette Andrietti, VP Intel EMEA.
This opinion is backed up by Dr Sue Black, Honorary Professor of Computer Science at University College London, founder of techmums and advisor to the UK Government’s Digital Service who says “we need to change our culture as it is vaguely misogynistic and this affects all of us, not just women. Diversity makes it better for everyone, not just women coming into IT, but also because diversity means that we get better products.”
So should the catalyst for change come from governments or companies? Yes, but there’s more to it than that. According to technology reporter, Kate Russell, “it’s really down to all of us to fix the gender gap in tech – by eliminating gender biases from our thinking. That’s it – it’s really down to you and me, and everyone else on the planet.”
As a global employer Intel is playing its part and in 2015 it announced a $300m diversity in technology initiative that has the goal where Intel aims to be the first high technology company to reach full representation of women and under-represented minorities in its US workforce by 2020.
Intel’s initiative is having an effect as in 2015 hiring of under-represented minorities rose by 31% to a total of 11.8% and women by nearly 43% to a total of 35%. Intel has also narrowed the gap in female representation, ending the year with a workforce that is 24.8% women, which is an increase of 5.4% over 2014.
It’s not just in the US though, in 2015 Intel EMEA reversed the declining trend in female representation for the first time in seven years and all 35 EMEA leaders established a plan to expand the pipeline of women entering the industry, boost female hiring and progression and improve retention.
They also looked at ways to engage with female talent, 35 diversity and inclusion events organised or attended including onsite open days, female hackathons and programming workshops as well as +1 networking events.
“Girls and women are essential for our future. Today, at Intel, we’re investing in their education and aiming to empower them with technology to open doors and let them shape their future. We believe educated and empowered girls and women will improve their societies in both social and economic ways. A recent study shows that a 10% increase in education of girls and women increases GNP by 3%. As women, we need to be more vocal and brave enough to shape our future and make it better for us and our community. Today we are more powerful than ever with the technology that we have,” Bernadette added.
International Women’s Day is a fantastic way to celebrate women’s successes and to highlight the many issues women around the world face, however, in a society that has true gender parity it wouldn’t be needed because then, every day would be women’s day. — That Media Thing (@mediathing)