Why women just don't want IT

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).


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