On the morning of International Women's Day, the federal government has announced the members of an advisory group which will help plan a Women in ICT summit to be held later this year.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said of the summit: "We need more women interested in ICT, studying ICT and working in ICT. The government made a commitment at the last election to convene a summit involving leaders in the ICT industry and education to identify and address the barriers that may be keeping women out of the ICT sector."
Women from various educational and corporate organisations all over the country made the list. The corporate world was represented by Qantas chief information officer Fiona Balfour, Thoughtware Australia chief executive officer Sonja Bernhardt, Aspect Computing founder Lyndsey Cattermole, Expertise Australia Group chief executive officer Megan Cornelius and long-time industry executive Sheryle Moon.
From the education sector the government picked Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Joan Cooper (who is also billed as the first female IT professor in Australia), Pymble Ladies' College head of information technology Rathika Suresh, Griffith University Associate Professor Liisa von Hellens and Beth Warren, who is manager of Web strategy at the Tasmanian Department of Education.
The IT recruitment industry will also be represented by Penny Coulter, who has 24 years in recruitment under her belt, as well as being a member of the Professional Development Committee of the Information Technology and Recruitment Association (ITCRA).
Quite aside from their current roles, many members of the advisory group have special expertise related to the subject of women and technology. For example, Sheryle Moon is the author of the 'Set for Life Report' which examines issues around the gender gap in students looking for ICT industry careers.
Of the group, Senator Coonan said: "There is so much more to a career in IT than having your eyes glued to a computer screen and this dynamic group of women represents what women can contribute to the IT industry."
The initial idea for the summit was raised back in September when the federal government released its new ICT policy. At the time, Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Edward Mandla praised the government for raising the issue of the low proportion of women in the ICT industry.
"It's pleasing that the Minister has asked where "are the women in ICT?" said Mandla. "This is a question the ACS has asked for some time, and one of the key reasons we've been calling for schools to train our children in ICT literacy. The ACS has already begun to explore this issue with interested parties and is calling for a summit to allow a range of views to be aired and further work to be commissioned."