Women’s Day Spotlights Gaps in IT

International day of celebration reveals gaps in technology access, employment and opportunity

Today marks the 100th International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women of the past, present and future.

But this year’s theme, Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women, is raising awareness of lingering inequalities in these areas.

Lack of recruitment representation

Only 16 percent of all technology job seekers are women according to recruitment statistics released today.

The finding, derived from research into the candidate database of UK recruitment agency The IT Job Board, highlight that women make up only one fifth of all employees in the IT sector.

Anjali Bhardwaj, Women in Technology UK business development executive told eWEEKEurope UK that these and other similar statistics had remained largely unchanged in the last five years.

“We look at gender diversity and have found it is not just about increased numbers of women in pure technology development roles, it’s about encouraging a positive working environment that offers support and fosters loyalty for all employees,” she said.

Historically, she added, women typically tend to be very loyal employees, but often find a lack of mentors or support networks at senior levels.

Drilling down into recruitment agency data further revealed its top two job titles for women working in IT companies and departments were project manager and business analyst. For men, they were developer and project manager.

And when it came to the major cities attracting IT professionals, the top three for women were London, Reading and Birmingham (in that order), and London, Birmingham and Manchester for men.

Alex Farrell, managing director of The IT Job Board, said the recent Women and Equality Unit report also highlighted that girls disengage from IT subjects between the ages of 11 and 15.

“I truly believe that the whole issue does stem back to childhood,” Farrell said. “Rather than sit and wait for things to improve, the sector needs to do more now to attract the female talent of the future. Through our ‘Women in IT’ campaign we hope to help work towards this.”

Mobilising women globally

One area of the industry seizing the initiative is mobile technology. Backed by the mobile industry trade body, operators and international development agencies, the GSMA mWomen Programme launched in October 2010 to address key barriers around women’s access to mobile phones, including total cost of ownership, technical literacy, and cultural barriers to adoption.

Trina Das Gupta, mWomen Programme director, said research carried out last year that found women were 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone spurred on the creation of the mobile initiative.

While in the early stages of developing business case scenarios for mobile products and services aimed at empowering women, Das Gupta added that, “if it helps educate or better support them or their families, through health delivery or revenue generating opportunities, women will buy them”.

She encouraged people to sign the GSMA mWomen Charter, which holds that connectivity is fundamental, especially for accessing vital information and services that can close global access and education gender gaps.