Why women just don't want IT

Why women just don't want IT

Summary: IT is perceived as nerdy, blokey and boring, but the problem in attracting more women to the ICT industry may not lie with the fairer sex per se.


Technology, as a profession, is nerdy, blokey and boring. This is how it's been perceived for many years by women, with no dramatic change in sight.

These are seen as the main barriers to increasing the number of female workers in the technology industry but the problem may not lie with the fairer sex per se. The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO Sheryle Moon believes parents, career advisers and teachers have an important role to play in marketing the breadth of opportunities that the ICT industry offers.

"There's a general lack of understanding by young people on what the industry is about.

"We need a national approach to attracting young people and particularly young women into the industry," she said in an interview to mark International Women's Day today.

Females in IT

Moon, a 26-year veteran of the information and communications industry, intends to work closely with the private sector, states and territories to "sell" ICT as an exciting career option.

At the moment, only 18 percent of employees in ICT are women. The ideal figure should be 50 percent, she said.

"We've got girls exiting from science degrees in greater proportion, we've got girls achieving higher levels in Maths and Science, we've got women with the right capabilities ... all the attributes that we want in the industry so we would expect the participation rate to match that of young men."

Another area of concern was retaining women in the workforce as flexible working policies in some companies were merely lip service.

"If you look at flexible working policies probably about 60 to 70 percent of organisations in Australia have policies to say they provide flexible working arrangements.

"They call themselves family friendly but the issue is that the choice to allow someone to exercise flexible arrangements often comes back to your immediate manager.

Sheryle Moon

"The reluctance at that level to allow people to work at home is just nonsense," she said, "because in this day and age, we have technology."

Moon urged companies to follow the lead of the EOWA Employer of Choice for Women winners, which have put in place management practices to allow people to work from home.

Organised by EOWA (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency), Agilent, Motorola, Cisco and IBM made it to the list comprising 131 organisations.

Meanwhile, at a luncheon organised by FITT (Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications) this afternoon, Moon, on behalf of Communications Minister Helen Coonan, announced a AU$70,000 training initiative aimed at encouraging female participation in ICT. The program will be led and partly funded by the AIIA and Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Topics: Government, CXO, Government AU, Tech Industry

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  • 50%?

    I disagree with the 50% suggestion. I want the best people in the job, not a politically correct ratio. Women may be 51% of the Australian population, but I want the best people doing the job -- whether that makes it 5% of 95% of IT being women is irrelevant.

    If we run with the earlier suggestion, then 50% of midwives should be men, and the prison rate has to be increased from 6% to 51% for females incarcerated.

    Jobs by merit/ability, not sexuality, gender, religious or political preference please.
  • irrelevant

    You miss the point.

    Far fewer women are drawn to IT, hence the imbalance in male:female ratio. For many people this is a Bad Thing; e.g. a colleague recently started making a special effort to hire women because his team is so male-dominated they're all "starting to go crazy".

    If the industry succeeds in drawing equal numbers of men and women to ICT in the first place, you'll get about 50% women if you DO employ on merit - since the best applicant would be a woman half the time.
  • and the chicks in IT,......

    ......usually look like men anyway.

    Face it dude, the chicks all want to own beauty salons and Marketing companies etc etc...they just don't care about IT, much like we guys do not give a rats &ss about Bridalwear shops or manchester.

    It's just a brain chemistry thing.
  • who cares?!?

    Who cares? Guys like some jobs, women like other types of jobs. Why do we need 50/50?

    Do we care of 50% of all mechanics are women? Do we care of 50% of all fashion designers/stylists are straight men?
  • yes its nerdy and boring

    many late hours

    constant study to keep up with changes

    weekends spent doing upgrades that cant be done during week

    women who regard you as a nerd

    taking orders from sales people/managers/bosses with hairdressing qualifications, etc, etc

    just watch office space or the ofice to get an idea
  • Re-read TFA

    Quote: "We've got girls exiting from science degrees in greater proportion, we've got girls achieving higher levels in Maths and Science, we've got women with the right capabilities ... all the attributes that we want in the industry so we would expect the participation rate to match that of young men."
  • We should care that women are not participating in the ICT industry!

    There are a number of reasons why we should care that sufficient numbers of women are not participating in the ICT industry.

    Technology is pervasive and is enabling productivity growth in nearly every other sector of the Australian economy. In the future, we are going to need more, not less people in the ICT industry to ensure our country continues to enjoy the massive improvements to everyday life.

    Engaging women maximises women
  • no-brainer

    An ICT skill shortage in Australia and up to half the population not interested in ICT. Yes its a no-brainer - only somebody with no brain couldn't realise why getting more women interested is a good idea!
  • No, YOU re-read it the start to use your brain.

    "We've got girls exiting from science degrees in greater proportion, we've got girls achieving higher levels in Maths and Science, we've got women with the right capabilities ... all the attributes that we want in the industry so we would expect the participation rate to match that of young men."

    Soooo.....instead of 4 female Maths graduates they now have 6...whoopdy doo. Or to put it another way..how many of those female Science graduates don't give a toss about routers or cutting code, they all want to swim with dolphins or develop new orthotics for people.

    Women don't get into IT because IT is seen as boring and nerdy and women just don't "get" it. Even the token women in the field (like the author) generally only contribute "fluff" like PR work, "Here's how you type a letter up in Word a bit faster" peices or the Communications (read, big smile, short skirt) type guff before handing over to Mr Bean with the pocket protector and the personal hygeine problem.

    That's life, get used to it.
  • Ane we also have a plumber shortage....

    But good luck trying to get 50% of plumbers female in the future.

    They wouldn't want to break a nail or get all "yukky".

    Geeez, c'mon people, this is hardly brain surgery, think about it.
    Chicks don't want to be IT geeks, they don't want to be mechanics, they don't want to work in a wrecking yard ripping old tractors to pieces....starting to get the picture yet???

    How many men are working towards their very own bridal-shop ?...huh???..huh???...wake up.
  • *Sigh*

    You obviously have no idea about what women in the IT industry are doing right now.

    Believe it or not, they're there cutting code, maintaining your servers and making sure that male users don't click on that really exciting virus opportunity.

    I would love to see more women in the industry, both as a father of two daughters who are already showing an interest in geekness and as an industry participant.

    Yes there is a problem in the industry. There is a small percentage of men who feel threatened and view IT as one of those "last bastions of male ascendancy" things. Trust me I've worked with them. They go out of their way to make things uncomfortable for women who are just as skilled as they are.
  • On the other hand...

    Yup crap exists in the industry as it exists in all others.

    ICT is one of those industries that you've got to have a passion for to really enjoy. If you like finding that code bug and fixing it, or putting together a kick-buttock network design with double redundant failsafes, then the fact that your manager is often the CIO's nephew can be forgiven.
  • Work Choices

    If Moon and Coonan are genuine about this, and about tackling work barriers that preclude women, they should start with the Liberal government's Work Choices legislation.

    For some reason I don't see Coonan or Moon doing this.
  • Good reasons for this

    IT work requires the ability to think logically.

    'nuff said
  • Male / Female Workforce

    If women dont want to work in the IT industry stop harping about it.
    Too much time is wasted in many industries with political correctness; if the applicant for the job is female or male it doesnt matter; as an employer you want the right people for the job not some govt imposed sex ratio quota.

    Spend more time on attracting people to the industry who want the job for the jobs interest.
  • What happens when the talent pool runs dry?

    It is easy to say that you want the best person for the job regardless of sex, race, religion etc. but what happens when that talent pool runs dry.

    Over the last twelve months I have read numerous articles (national and international) and responses to those articles attended the National ICT Skills Summit and watched as the industry and governments respond. With expenditure on IT projects by governments and large industry increasing I am starting to hear words like skills droughts, poaching and can
  • No Work Choices more like it

    Its not just Work Choices, the IT industry doesn't even have an award.

    Dump the 9+ hour days, the live in the office, the shabby dress sense and general slob behaviour. Dressing like a slob and acting like one isn't going to earn anyone's respect. An extra hour at the office usually means an extra 10 minutes of actual work, or lots more mistakes which need to be fixed later.

    Programmers aren't interchangable clogs, they are the most valuable part of any piece of software.

    This industry needs to grow up, IT gets a lot more respect in USA than it does here.
  • i've seen it....

    I'm in the artsy side (graphic design) now having decided i was too scatterbrained to be as good as my former colleagues (all field technicians) one in particular- a middle aged woman who took on hardware- programming and management.... and i also remember our former managers treating us like the token office chicks.... it was frustrating but worth every minute when she had managed to fix one of those on-going problems that the afore mentioned managers had put in the too hard basket.

    basically- you are either born with the aptitude for trouble shooting computers or you will end up like me - a wanna-be nerd reading articles instead of engineering real solutions.

    there is an element of brain chemistry involved- in being narrow-minded and judgmental just as much as there in in analytical process and troubleshooting.

    peace out y'all.
  • IT isn't family-friendly

    I can understand why many women don't want to do IT, and it isn't just because of the nerdy image. I've been working in this industry 20 years and it's mostly jobs that include high stress, long hours, and unpredictable callouts, whether you're at the programming end or the sysadmin end. Now there's no reason why women can't handle this, but the moment they start wanting perks like being able to take off and see to their families any time they want, that's not going to cut the mustard.

    When that website's gone down, irate customers are flooding the company inbox with hate mail, and managers are breathing down your neck to fix that damn problem yesterday if not right now, that is NOT the time to be excusing yourself to go fetch the kids from school. IT demands a level of commitment beyond that of the normal workaday job; you need to be able to put in that 80-hour week when it's needed, you need to have a clear head free of personal concerns so you can focus on solving the problem. Whether its fixing a hung network or getting that project out on deadline, when a company's lifeline is YOUR JOB, that comes before all other considerations, including family. Because hundreds of other people's jobs, and in some cases even lives, may well hang on YOUR expertise and availability.

    Don't get me wrong here - I know men often have family commitments as much as women. But most of the IT "geeks" I've known don't have kids - they don't have the time, or in many cases, the inclination. Some do, and every such one I've known has either ended up divorced because they put their jobs first - or they lost their jobs because they put their families first.

    IT isn't about being family-friendly. It's about serious responsibility. It's about looking after every other John and Jane's job in the place. It's about being there to keep everything running when you're needed. If you want family friendliness, become a receptionist or a sales rep.

    Because as long as computer systems fail, as long as projects take longer than expected, IT personnel are going to be pulling all-nighters and 80-hour weeks until the job gets done.
  • IT gets more respect Where?

    As a US IT worker for nearly 25 years, I can tell you that the job is just as under appreciated and disrespected here as it is anywhere. Companies think that just anyone can do the job, so they outsource, and then when everything goes to heck, they start hiring in the U.S. again.

    I've watched this trend to know what is going on. Women don't want into the IT industry because they are much wiser than men are. Pure and simple. What woman would want a job that has more stress, longer hours and frequent layoffs?

    There will never be more women in IT for the simple reason that they have alternatives. Men do too, but men seem to be more motivated by cash for some reason.