Have you ever felt out of your depth? I have, many times. Indeed I quite pride myself in that my comfort zone is to be outside of my comfort zone. This morning I felt out of my depth though and not always in a comfortable way. I was chairing a group meeting what I hoped was a useful event in trying to address a big issue within the ICT industry – the number of women working in it. This was the first issue that I was going to try and address this year.
I started off with a story. Some time ago when my daughters were younger, I have two, and we went to McDonalds (please don’t judge me). I ordered a couple of happy meals and the server said do you have girls or boys, the implication being that there was a girls toy and a boys toy. I turned to them and they asked ‘what’s the toy?’ They chose the boy’s one. Of course times have changed since then.
Indeed our own flyer for the event caused some discussion about whether or not it was projecting the right image for an event about getting more women to work in the industry. It was supposed to be ironic in a girly way but hinted at how difficult an issue this was going to be.
I’ve said many times that nothing runs without ICT. It’s a vibrant industry in the North East with over thirty thousand jobs with lots of exciting and varied things to do. There is plenty for everyone and a lot to aspire towards.
ICT in itself is not gender biased. The technology can be used by all genders and all ages, yet the industry is. A picture of my own service tells it all. The higher the pay then the wider the gap is between male and female employees. Women flat line somewhere in the middle of our grading structure.
Demand for talented people is growing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is estimated that ninety per cent of advertised jobs require some degree of computer, keyboard or screen based ability Women form only twenty per cent of the ICT workforce and it tends to be at the lower-level operator and clerical end of the business. Fifteen per cent of ICT managers are female and only eleven percent of ICT strategy and planning professionals are. But this isn’t just a gender issue, it is about using all of the talents within our society to make sure that the ICT Industry reflects its customers. There are not enough young people wanting to choose ICT as a career and in particular there are not enough girls coming through.
In my opinion this is something that we all have a role in helping to resolve. Anyone who has influence over children and young people has a part to play, family, friends, educators and employees. It is incumbent upon all of us to change the situation and this morning’s session was about starting to address this.
We started with some speakers and then followed it with some question and answer sessions. I felt it was a great event but that is for another day. Big thanks to Aimie and Sandra who organised it all.