The Gender Gap: Is IT the golden opportunity for women?
It's a systemic issue in Australia and around the world where women still face a pay gap in every industry including IT, but things are changing, albeit slowly.
According to the Australian Computer Society's (ACS) recent digital pulse report, the female share of total technology workers in 2018 increased slightly to 29%, with the gender pay gap declining slightly from 20% in 2017 to 18% in 2018.
The information technology workforce continues to see underrepresentation by women. Participation of women in technology roles is 29% of the overall workforce, significantly lower than other professional occupations more at 44%.
The good news however is there has been small signs of improvement with 29% share of females in technology roles represented a marginal increase relative to the previous year - the first increase in female representation in the Australian technology workforce since the first Digital Pulse report was published.
The golden opportunity for women in IT is in the current and projected skills shortage identified with the expectation that there will be a requirement for an additional 100,000 technology workers by 2024.
The report also indicated that the highest priority for the Australian digital economy lies in solving this shortage and the current rate of IT graduates and skilled migration alone is unlikely to meet the significant future demand for technology workers. Which requires greater investment in developing workers' technology skills.
The Queensland State Government has put a long-term plan into place, the Hon Kate Jones, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development said that they have a plan to encourage girls to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, as she believes interest starts early it at home and in schools. In 2019 there was a roll out of specialist STEM teachers in primary schools in Queensland.
"We know that most people are considering whether to go into those disciplines from an early age so if we can get dynamic women and men teaching those skills in the early years, then I think you are going to change the path."
In the short term, the best method is a collaboration of private enterprise and business working with communities, Governments and tertiary institutions to provide an opportunity for immediate change. Australian IT company CT4 has developed an approach to bridge both gaps facilitating entry level training and jobs for those new to IT through their DAP earn and learn program.
With a particular focus on women joining the program and due to demand are expanding the program with support of state Governments and tertiary education providers.
CT4's Customer Success Manager Tegan DeClark encourages a change in perception of what it means to work in IT, having previously entered from another industry.
"The IT industry typically provides better opportunities for flexible work arrangements, remote working, increased earnings, and work-life balance for families compared to other industries, particularly for those re-entering the workforce after a career break or located in regional areas"
In Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), data released in August 2019, shows women the Information media and communications industry is on average the second highest for fulltime weekly earning behind only the mining industry.
DeClark says that instead of just a job or just study, their DAP program gives people accepted into the course a way to get a foot in the door to a growing IT industry, with work experience and a certificate at the end of it. "The program is broadly targeted at not just school leavers and graduates but those upskilling or reskilling. We truly believe that diversity be that culture, ability, gender, background and life/work experience is the lens in which through, unique problems are solved, so it's not just talented computer enthusiasts we encourage to enter our training programs"
As digital technologies continue to provide Australia with opportunities to grow and innovate as emerging technologies become more integrated into the operations of our businesses and everyday lives of Australian citizens, Australia's future prosperity in an increasingly digitised world will depend upon ongoing investment in these technologies and further development in the digital skills required to operate them.