image credit: soapboxscience
I recently stumbled on a report on Women in IT jobs by Deloitte.
The report predicts that by the end of 2016, less than 25% of IT jobs in developing countries will be held by women.
The report explained the following factors are contributing to gender inequality in IT jobs:
Poor Education Pipeline
Not every current IT worker has (or needs) a formal education background in fields of computer science or information technology.
But, in cases where formal education is needed these fields suffer from gender inequality.
An education pipeline is a transition from high school to enrolling into university, and from enrolling into a university course to completing the degree.
The report notes that some girls are often steered away from science and math courses as early as Primary School.
Parents are required to take up a greater role in encouraging their daughters to take up interest in science and technology at a young age.
Gender-based recruiting practices
The report highlights the need to have gender neutral job descriptions as an important first step in job ads.
The job ad should appeal to both sexes, allowing a wider net to be cast in recruitment.
Another interesting point made was job ad placement.
Some ads are placed in areas that are predominantly male occupied spaces.
Hiring more female recruiters may help the process of enlisting more women in IT.
The report notes that both men and women are twice as likely to hire a man for an IT job over an equally qualified woman.
It notes there is an unconscious bias towards hiring men for IT jobs.
There is a need for better education, training, and awareness to help recruiters realize they are making hiring choices based on gender.
Also, from past experience, balancing the interview panel plays a large role in how women fair in interviews.
Most women I have spoken to after interviews complained about the fear and intimidation factor of an all-male panel, not allowing them to fully express their ideas or opinions.
More women in IT jobs are likely to leave their positions in their first year of employment.
Retention issues stem from issues of salary bias and lack of promotion opportunities.
Also, some work environments are (un)intentionally sexist.
Some workplace policies are also not suited and flexible to women.
Cases of exhaustive marathon coding and expectations around not having children play a role in failing to retain women in IT workplaces.
Lack of child care facilities and support from the company were also cited.
Salaries and promoting
Most IT workplaces have their own unique salary model.
It is a more of a merit-based system which rewards on work done.
The model fails to address gender sensitive issues as it does not take into consideration the roles women play in their families and as mothers, cutting down the amoun of time they can spend on work related activities.
Also, the report noted that most women felt like they didn’t deserve to be promoted over male counterparts, with some fearing the added responsibilities of the new position.
The report encourages more women to stand up and be counted as equals when it comes to promotions in the workplace.
Role of Government
The Government plays a large role in leveling the gender playing field in IT and the country as a whole.
Currently, the Zimbabwean government is running a STEM program that is trying to promote science, technology, and mathematics as gender-neutral subjects.
The government could also run policies that require a quota of women in IT positions across its ministries and parastatals.
Government initiatives could at least narrow the tech gender gap and influence private sector to follow suit.
A lack of gender diversity in IT workplaces is both a social and economic issue.
The gender gap is continuously increasing as fewer women are working in IT related roles.
More women are leaving current IT jobs to pursue other careers as workplaces have failed to adapt gender sensitive practices and models.
Gender equality in IT seems to be a noble cause but why are the numbers so low and why aren’t they improving?
There is an initiative called Shine the Light by internet society that encourages to boost the profile of women in IT doing incredible things with technology across the world.
There is also a Zimbabwean initiative call Tech-women who campaign for “An empowered, motivated and successful woman in STEM occupying at least 50% representation in all STEM professions”
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