Women in the workforce. Either I have an ear for this topic or it really was a trending theme in conversation. Regardless I am glad that this topic made the agenda at last weekends’ G20 summit. This theme permeated conversation among leaders, Global Cafe speakers and the general public; even my tweet questioning the occurrence of misogyny and hostility towards women in the Tech industry roused comment from Peta Ellis (leading voice in the Brisbane tech innovation scene) who noted that “…the two digital panels (of two) have all been men”.
As the G20 leaders seek to reduce the gap between female and male participation in the workforce by 25%, I speculate that a large fraction of the 25% can be corrected within the IT & Digital employment scene. I don’t believe that the discrepancy of female representation in this industries has been the result of direct discouragement or hostility towards women but rather a legacy of behaviors and culture within the tech industry and the unhealthy belief that careers in IT aren’t ‘sexy’ or ‘womanly’ enough.
Male dominated events can be intimidating to walk into, and nobody wants to be THAT girl who is too uptight to scoff down “pizza and beer” for dinners at tech networking events. And of course addressing these factors is a chicken and egg thing; women feel intimidated by the thought of being the only woman at networking events so they don’t attend, which means other women who feel the same way don’t attend either.
However above all of factors the attractiveness of IT & Digital careers is what needs to be addressed when attractive women into the industry:
- Creating ‘female friendly’ networking groups, e.g. Women in Digital Australia,
- Showcasing digital careers that include examples of innovative, artistic, sociable and ‘sexy’ career paths,
- Having designated ‘Diversity Ambassadors’ that will welcome females to male dominated events. I recently attended a networking event and for the first time was made to feel incredibly welcome by serial entrepreneur, Wayne Gerard who spoke about the importance of encouraging women into Digital careers,
- Ensuring that women in IT and Digital continue to be encouraged by scholarships and dedicated opportunities to correct the gender imbalance.
Lastly, an important caveat that must never be forgotten; initiatives that attract Women into IT and Digital shouldn’t be designed to make women feel special or different in the industry but rather to equalize the playing field, because after all, Women in Digital should be the norm not the exception.