Arbitrary targets that don’t reflect the true female IT population will not assist. Analysing the number of females in each IT role type and then setting targets is required.
Likewise, a fundamental shift needs to occur to grow the supply of females coming into the sector. Getting more girls to study STEM subjects and moving through the pipeline is key.
Sally Kennedy, executive general manager of information services at State Trustees agrees: “What genuinely surprised me was that only 14 per cent of CIO, CDO and executive roles are occupied by women as I honestly thought we’d come further than that,” she said.
“I see a lot of women in CIO roles profiled in the media, but that’s created an incorrect perception that the gender mix at this level is better than it really is.
“With the participation rate as poor as it is, there is obviously action required on both the demand and supply sides,” she said.
“We hear a lot now about the importance of encouraging children into STEM subjects and like most of us I agree that’s going to be vital for a longer term gender balance in the industry.”
This will require a multipronged, long term approach to addressing the issue.
Wenn offers further thoughts on how to address the problem.
“Many of us are working in silos to make change, but we need employers, educational institutions and country leaders to work together to improve the gender imbalance,” Wenn said.
“We need to start educating girls about the benefits of a career in technology at a young age. We should be providing evidence to convince young women and their parents that dropping mathematics in year nine closes many career doors.
“We have to start educating girls that a career in technology can mean many things – ranging from coding to user experience and design, people leadership, project management, and business analysis.”
These changes will address the pipeline of women coming into the IT sector, but in the meantime there are more immediate changes that can be made to increase the number in senior ranks.
Organisations would be well advised to look to areas like project management and identify key females to nurture, train and develop into our next IT leaders.
Additionally, changing recruiting methods to remove unconscious bias, promote female roles models, drive mentor programs and eliminate the perceptions that IT is more of a man’s domain are essential.
“Right now addressing the likely unconscious or conscious bias in the recruitment process is critical,” Kennedy said.
“Boards and executives need to ensure that there is appropriate rigour in the selection process to make this a thing of the past. Perceptions that IT is more of a man’s domain is still prevalent and we need to fix this.”
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