The numbers are clear: women are under-represented in most IT roles. Yet, ironically, companies are increasingly looking for women’s talent and their unique skills to fill technical and leadership positions. So how can we ensure that women get the place they deserve in IT? How can we collectively be better at speaking to their dreams and ambitions? How can we encourage them to pursue a career in technology?
By Manuela Delfort-Garampon, co-founder of Mindquest.
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It can often be difficult to find a single woman in the IT department of a large company, even across entire office floors. As we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day in honour of this champion of women in STEM; we should take a deep look at how much progress we have made towards equal gender representation in technology. Spoiler alert: not enough.
According to various recent studies on the subject, the proportion of women in IT professions varies between 10 and 30%. Gartner estimates this proportion to be at 31% globally in 2018.
What is more, the higher up in the hierarchy, the fewer women there are. Only 13% of women occupy the position of CIO according to the 2018 Gartner CIO Survey.
But most alarmingly, the gap appears to be widening if we consider the decline in the number of women enrolled in IT-related schools.
IT functions are affected by a terrible talent shortage. The number of unfilled positions in digital professions is exploding. To the point that the main threat to start-ups and large IT departments has become how difficult it is to find the right person for the job.
But, as it stands, the IT world is virtually depriving itself of half of its talent pool. Attracting more women would certainly go a long way in solving the problem.
On the other hand, IT professions would have everything to gain from welcoming more women for one simple reason. Gender diversity increases team performance. Numerous studies show the positive impact of gender diversity on employee engagement and confidence, customer satisfaction and the company’s brand image.
According to McKinsey, which has been publishing the “Women Matter” study series for ten years now, companies with 3 women or more within their management bodies; or 30% of a classic boardroom; obtained performance scores up to 7 points higher than more male-dominated companies.
So, there is no lack of good arguments to move towards greater gender parity, but how can we push for it? Several axes should be tackled at once. The often-proposed principle of quotas could be a solution. But it is not a very good strategy from a talent quality point of view. Above all, it would be necessary to change social perceptions around women in tech. Rather than imposing, we should facilitate and streamline women’s access to IT professions and encourage them to choose these careers.
In the era of digital transformation, IT jobs have gained in atractiveness. But many functions are still widely associated with men. Systems architect, network engineer, project manager, data scientist, software developer … are all professions from which women tend to stay away. It is important that we give more visibility to the women already working in these sectors in order to attract future candidates.
Campaings like #WomenInTech or #WhomenWhoCode are good examples of how the IT community is working towards this goal.
To break the glass ceiling, we must also make women aware of their abilities, of their value and what they have to bring to IT teams.
Today, great figures from political circles and the show business are encouraging women to get out of their comfort zone, to be vocal about their goals and fully unleash their potential and break down all these social barriers.
We should apply this global push to the world of IT so that women can stop devaluing themselves and settle for lower salaries. Finally gaining access to more strategic and technical positions.
Here again, education and communication are key. So are role models.
Women are undeniably welcome in IT, they just need to be more daring.
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