Ways to close the gender gap in the IT field

2 March 2015

Information technology has certainly helped train men in the field and allowed them to become efficient and educated professionals. However, Dark Reading reported that there is certainly an obvious gender gap in the IT field. There are a variety of reasons for having an unequal balance between men and women in IT, but with those obstacles are multiple solutions. 

How women in the field are faring 
There is a debate whether the gender gap is due to the lack of encouragement for women in technology since their young education, but the Dark Reading concluded that it's a more likely factor that the environment is not ideal for women. 

Dark Reading mentioned that a report by the Center for Talent Innovation found women are 45 percent more likely to leave the field of technology within a year of entering it. This is unfortunate, as the field is actually lacking professionals. 

"If we doubled the number of women in security tomorrow, it would eliminate the shortage for a full year. It's not just a cultural issue. It's an economic issue," Julie Peeler, head of the USC(2) Foundation, told Dark Reading. 

The author of the article, Sara Peters, an editor of Dark Reading and former editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency, mentioned how she was ignored at a security conference by most of the participants – who were mainly male. The only man who acknowledged her told her she had great legs. Peters admitted she only saw two women during her two days at the event. 

The source surmised that the reason women are leaving can also be attributed to a lack of confidence because of a "macho culture" and lack of encouragement for promotion by those in executive positions. The solution to this seems to be to push women toward management and trying to appreciate and respect their capabilities.

How to reform education to improve the gender gap 
There are many resources available for practicing IT professionals, such as SQL training and Microsoft certification courses. However, to make women more prominent and comfortable in the field, the Financial Review reported that there has to be education reform. More specifically, technology needs to be more commonly taught in all schools. The entire concept of what working in IT means needs to be redone.

"It's a basic skill [that needs to be taught in school alongside English and maths]," Pip Marlow, Microsoft' Australia's managing director, told the Financial Review. "If you go to a website and think it looks cool, that's because an artist created it. We have to reframe the teaching of digital skills to show how it can bring to life all of a person's passions."

Marlow is hoping if IT is taught more in schools, girls and boys together will approach it more seriously. It has a variety of stereotypes, including the idea that it is generally a "geeky male industry," according to the Financial Review. 

"In IT, the number of women studying STEM skills is still dropping. We don't have a great pipeline of female talent, so we have to attract people into the industry," Marlow said. "We need to stop stereotyping technology careers."

The source added that it's especially important to have diversity in the workplace, and having gender diversity programs in organizations can help with the issue. Google and Spotify are both companies that have been known to do this. Encouraging education within companies for all genders, such as pushing for Microsoft training, can create more professionals within the industry. 

Additionally, the source added that Marlow and Angela Fox, the director of Microsoft New Zealand, were working to become role models for women in the IT world. It's important for women to have female leaders in executive positions to look up to, as it reminds them it's possible to reach the top of the corporate ladder. 

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