IT needs image makeover to attract more women

IT needs image makeover to attract more women

Summary: The technology industry needs to promote itself as a diverse and creative workplace if it wants to attract more women to its ranks, according to speakers at the FITT (Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications) trends lunch in Sydney this week.


The technology industry needs to promote itself as a diverse and creative workplace if it wants to attract more women to its ranks, according to speakers at the FITT (Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications) trends lunch in Sydney this week.

Keynote speaker Tracey Fellows, managing director at Microsoft Australia told ZDNet Australia that the main reason women are underrepresented in the technology industry is due to an "old and stagnant" perception of it being limited to code-cutters.

"While that's a really important part of our industry, I've never cut code in my life," she said.

"Young women see this industry as being very boring, potentially very nerdy, when it's actually not," agreed fellow presenter Merle Singer, Director, Culture and Reputation at Dimension Data. "It's innovative, it's creative. Perhaps we don't sell that as much."

Carolyn Shaw, chairwoman of the FITT steering committee told ZDNet Australia that the IT industry is "extremely diverse".

"For women today there are a lot of calls for skills in collaboration, teamwork, project management, the ability to multitask," she said. "Women tend to have very good skills in these areas."

One of a handful of men at the event, Dimension Data chief technology officer Gerard Florian, said that the industry needs to make people aware that "it's not all about bits and bytes and chips".

"IT is prevalent across everything we do now," agreed Fellows. "If you talk about people in advertising agencies, they are working with IT building Web sites all the time. Do they think of themselves in the IT industry? Probably not. They think of themselves as creatives."

"There are some things we should do that really changes how people think about our industry and that will do a lot to encourage younger people, be they male or female, into the industry."

Topics: CXO, Software Development

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • Give up now

    I feel there a bunch of dinosaurs panic'y about how IT industry is lacking on the females side. When clearly it's not working or all the marketing efforts to steer girls into a career into IT is completely heading in the wrong direction.

    Let me tell you something. If we were to conduct a study on IT gurls working currently in the industry. You'd asking about how they've grown-up and how they decided IT was the right career.

    In my opinion, Most you'll find
    - Someone in the family/relative have influeced them
    - They have a higher score in Mortal Kombat or CS:S than you
    - They have a interest in some parts of sci-fi and enjoy scrubs
    - They maybe into Reading Comics, Japanese Anime and Cosplay
    - They had a Barbie collection and Phillips head screwdriver to pull things about

    You get the general idea

    Having said that current focus is to attract woman that the totally opposite of that description. You maybe convert 2% of the 98% whom chasing administration and retail career.

    Thats just the realtity
  • Rubbish

    This is just political correctness at its finest. Employment should be a matter of choosing the best person for a given job, not displacing the masses to make the environment more attractive to a specific group of people.

    IT is a "nerdy" profession so it is a simple matter of IT employees being roadwise in their chosen field, just the same as it is in any other occupation.
  • I'm a "code-cutter", but I also do many (*many*) other things. People end up in my role because they have the skills and gender just isn't a question. When we hire graduates, we are always happy when there are some girls, but no-one would select a candidate for any reason other than skills/aptitude.

    But we not talking about gender-balancing. This about perceptions. Yes there are nerdy jobs in IT. Programming is one and it's hard. That's why I get paid so much. Support is not so hard but I find it boring. Testing is not that creative. Project management can be very stressful. There are plenty of different roles, I think it's a good thing to promote this to an "untapped" market.

    The idea of an "image makeover" though is wrong. It is a technical industry. Even if you can't program, you need to be able to work with databases, networks and computers in general. There's more to it than people think, so yes we should make sure people know that, but let's not make it out to be something it's not.

    btw: A project manger who doesn't have some development experience isn't worth a damn.

    ..There are many more women in the Child Care industry than men, and the child care industry is in greater trouble than the IT industury but there are not massive time wasting and expensive exercises to try and get more men into the industry....

    Read into that you will.
  • Mistress of Improvisation

    I agree with Tom Peters when he says:
    " Juggling a dozen balls at once is a cinch for most women - and a genetic impossibility for most men. The ability to bob and weave through an uncertain world comes naturally to women. That's the one reason (one of many) why I believe women will be Masters... er, Mistresses... of the New Universe."

    The limitations of thinking by male managers in the IT Sector and the under representation of women in management positions is a strategic marketing error. The IT Sector needs to undergo a total strategic realignment if it wants to exploit the Women and Boomer Markets and survive.
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  • Cool site

    Nice articles, I agree on many of them.

    Acually IT leaders need to take women into account to make more space for women in the IT industry.
  • Women really need to step and take those IT jobs that men tend to go for. Diverse range of workers is always welcome and it would nicely balance both male and female ratio.