Female IT professionals should spread the word on their exciting careers

18 Feb 2010 View Comments
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Something that never ceases to amaze me is how some very successful female tech professionals are still surprisingly low-key about the inspiration they can provide to others.

For example, the IT boss at a law firm once told me that there is no difference between development needs for women in men in the IT workplace and another famously said that women “don’t need to carry a spanner to be successful in the world of technology.”

We all know that there is a gender gap in IT – according to sector skills council e-Skills UK, women represent 23 per cent of the workforce and get 30 per cent less money. So there is an issue, and sweeping it under the rug and hoping it will just go away doesn’t do us any favours.

To be able to compete with other nations where technology is seen as much more inspirational profession than traditional careers such as medicine or law, we need a more diverse business environment and a crucial part of that is bringing more women into the equation.

Fortunately – slowly but surely – business attitudes towards the problem seem to be changing. Some examples include the women’s tech network at Goldman Sachs and IBM, where many of the senior executives at the CIO office are female.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that this shift was not necessarily driven by the businesses alone, but a collective effort of an ever-expanding network of change agents, such as networking and support groups for women in IT.

According to Dr Sue Black, the head of the technology department at the University of Westminster and whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, there a much more noticeable presence of women across the spectrum of roles within the IT tech industry than in the 1990s, when she decided to set up set to the women’s network at the British Computer Society (BCS). The group now has over 1,500 members.

Even though we are still a long way from total gender equality in the workplace, Dr Black quite rightly pointed out that evidence of this change is the amount of female tech journalists around. Across Computing and our sister title V3, for example, we almost outnumber our male counterparts. 

OK, we have a lot more women in technology, but we need more! So how do we accelerate this process seems a question worth asking. Even in the aftermath of  the worst recession to date, e-skills still maintains that the IT and telecoms workforce will still require 110,000 new entrants yearly to meet demand.

Back to the initial point, it is about time that more successful female professionals in technology – and by that I don’t mean only senior tech leaders – go out and tell others about their careers and what excites them about working in IT.

There are many ways of doing that, including taking part in networking events, speaking at conferences, or even going to schools and talking to girls about why IT is one of the most interesting professions to work in.

Using social networking more efficiently is another option. Tools such as Twitter and blogs are there to facilitate a more dynamic and comprehensive debate and any IT professional, regardless of gender, should be embracing them. And what better way to start than signing up to the Ada Lovelace Day pledge to blog about your tech heroine?

For those who are unfamiliar, Ada Lovelace is credited the world’s first ever computer programmer. Organised by the first executive director of the Open Rights Group, Suw Charman-Anderson, the pledge is part of an international blogging day on 24 March to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. So far, over 2,000 people signed up – myself included!

We can all be ambassadors for a more inclusive workplace and by using the tools at our disposal to spread awareness, we can make that a reality. More information about the pledge can be found here.

By Angelica Mari

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