Saturday, 9 March 2013

Equality in Technology

Friday the 8th of March was International Women's Day. Companies like The Co-operative Bank, EON and African Development Bank spent the day raising awareness and celebrating the success of women across the world. 

I am really keen on equality in the workplace. A mix of personalities and gender make for a more vibrant and interesting work experience. It made me think about the role of women in technology industries.  I did some internet searching, and found two websites relating to women in IT in the UK. One was crashed, and the other had moved into a social media platform (which tells a story of it's own!). So please excuse the stats I have found relate to the United States only.

In the US fortune 500, 15 percent of companies have women on their board. However, when going into Silicon Valley, the number drops to 7 percent. All of Apple's senior management team are men.

Looking further down the pecking order, the percentage of women working in IT peaked in 1984 with 37.1% of computer science qualifications being awarded to women. This had dropped to 26.7% by 1998. This has held steady, with 27-29% of the US IT workforce being female in 2006.  

So how are women doing when they get an IT job? In 2012, the top three adverse influences on women's career advancement were: Work/Life balance (35%); Confidence/Self-belief (30%); and culture of the organisation (30%). 

From my own observations, I suggest that the lack of confidence and self belief is a lot higher, and may explain the reticence of women to flex their IT muscles. There have been many companies I have worked in where there was a culture of learned helplessness. One company in particular had a clinical archive document scanning system that was operated by a team of women. But when one of the scanners crashed, they rang a man from IT, who would have to walk down a long corridor and two flights of stairs - just to reboot their desktop computer and restart the application!

If more women were to choose a career in IT, I am sure they would set a positive example and raise the expectations on the resolution of some of the more entrenched problems with the IT world - poor communication skills, group thinking mentality and stakeholder management. 

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