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Wednesday, 09 July 2014 01:36

Call for urgent action to correct IT industry ‘gender imbalance’ Featured

Image courtesy of Ambro, Image courtesy of Ambro,

Men working in IT in Australia outnumber their female colleague by a ratio of five to one, prompting a major recruiter to call for the industry to urgently address the ‘severe’ gender imbalance.

IT recruitment firm Greythorn says gender imbalance is getting worse and the IT industry needs to address the issue with ‘significant urgency’ if it’s to prosper through the impending period of IT skills shortages

According to Greythorn, its recent survey of 2,928 Australian IT professionals revealed that male professionals outnumbered their female colleagues by a huge margin - 84% to 16%.

Greythorn also cites a recent report by IT recruitment industry body ITCRA which found that in the past 12 months, 78% of candidates placed into ICT roles have been male.

Richard Fischer, Greythorn’s APAC Managing Director says gender imbalance has always been the IT industry’s ‘white elephant’, and continues to worsen.

According to Fischer, a survey conducted four years in 2010/11 ago by Greythorn on gender in ICT produced results of 78% male to 22% female – or a decrease in females of 27% over the four year period.

And, Fischer says the research showed the gender gap becomes even more pronounced at management level, with females accounting for just 12% of respondents currently employed at IT Team Leader/Manager level or above.

“IT has always been a heavily male dominated industry. Everyone in the industry knows it’s an issue but it’s always been a significant challenge with very few companies having success in addressing this problem,” Fischer said.

According to Fischer, ‘surprisingly’, when respondents were asked whether they expect to remain in the IT industry for the duration of their career, only 47% of females said yes. Female respondents were also asked whether they believed there was a gender gap in salary with 56% stating yes and only 19% stating no, with the remainder unsure.

Fischer says employers of IT professionals would be well advised to look at, and address the gender imbalance within their own teams as a “matter of urgency in light of the looming skills crisis.”

“I’m not suggesting that by solving the gender issue in the industry we will be able to combat the skills crisis, but it is one way to open the industry up to a talent pool that has until now only been very lightly utilised.”

“The research tells us there is a large segment of the population that the IT industry has never been an option for. Finding ways to open the IT industry up to this underutilised group can only be a positive step in addressing the industries skills shortage.”

On the issue of attracting females to IT, Fischer says the research gives employers insight into specific benefits that appeal to female IT professionals.

“The research shows that compared to their male counterparts, female IT professionals are more attracted to benefits around workplace flexibility including flexible start/finish times, the ability to work remotely and extended maternity leave options.”

“Lending weight to the above point is the fact that more female IT professionals are engaged in part-time employment and contract employment compared to males who are more heavily represented in full time and permanent employment situations.”

And, Greythorn suggests employers consider the following workplace initiatives in order to attract and retain female IT professionals: 

•    Flexible working conditions

•    Generous maternity leave programs

•    Transparent and equal remuneration packages

•    Create a family-friendly work culture

•    Provide 'return to work' skills upgrade programs

•    Offer part-time or job-share opportunities

•    Profile female role models in senior IT positions

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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