There’s no getting around the fact that gender diversity is an ongoing and often controversial issue in the IT industry. Interestingly, an Australian Bureau of Statistics fact sheet reveals that women make up just over 46 per cent of all employees, yet when it comes to tech, this drops to as low as 28 per cent. Not only do current IT recruitment practices need addressing, there also needs to be a sustained effort in promoting opportunities for women in IT by providing viable career options.
Whilst there is no magic formula that employers can use to shrink the gender gap, there are still some concrete steps you can take to attract and retain female tech talent.
Provide Female Role Models
Many women are deterred from pursuing a career in IT due to the traditional view of male dominated teams coupled with limited opportunities to make their mark. The best way to break this mindset is to identify successful female leaders in the organisation and use them as role models. Particularly at the beginning of their tenure, having a mentor can offer young women in tech valuable advice on what professional skills to cultivate and how best to move forward in their career.
When businesses advocate opportunities for women in IT and foster their development, role models can show both current and new employees a clear career pathway for progression within the company – all the way to senior management! This is not only crucial for women who are building their IT careers, but also future generations. When more women are seen in top tech positions, it reinforces gender diversity as the industry norm.
Offer Real Work/Life Balance and Flexibility
Balancing motherhood, family time and personal commitments with a career is a major consideration for many women in tech. Thankfully, more and more IT organisations are offering flexible workplace arrangements in order to capture female talent.
Countless businesses talk about work/life balance, but what does this actually mean and what is the best way to approach it? From the conversations we’ve had with our candidates, it’s clear that flexibility means different things to different people. Contrary to what most employers may believe, it’s not just about remote working. This is simply one strategy amongst a broad range of options available. Sometimes the solution is as simple as having the freedom to pick up the kids from school, reduce commuting time, or the flexibility to attend the odd family event.
In fact, people don’t necessarily want to replace the time they have in the office, but rather re-order it so that it works better for them and their families. Other strategies to consider include transition programs for employees leaving or returning from leave, part-time work schedules and job-sharing opportunities. It’s worthwhile remembering that there is an untapped resource of qualified female IT talent that would make quality employees if offered the work/life balance their schedules require.
Encourage Careers Early
Attracting women in the IT industry may not seem easy given the unflattering statistics, however the catalyst for ensuring a solid pipeline of female talent is to encourage them to pursue IT careers early on. Providing role models and encouraging collaboration are steps in the right direction, as is extending opportunities for students to learn more about the industry and find the best ways forward. If not already doing so, it’s always a good idea for IT organisations to offer more work experience/internship opportunities to young women to help them get experience in the sector and learn how welcoming the industry is to new talent first-hand.
To further explore how to retain women in tech, it’s imperative to cultivate communities that support talent development. Communities can be driven internally or through participation in external groups and open the doors for women to share their experiences and challenges, as well as provide a forum to exchange ideas. This not only helps women in tech build their own contact base and sector knowledge, but also benefits a business by strengthening its reputation.
The lack of women in tech has drawn a lot of attention. Although businesses are trying to adopt practices to engage more women, it is necessary to understand the importance and benefits of having more women within IT and what can be done to foster greater gender diversity. By implementing some of the practical actions discussed, employers will benefit from everything that a diverse workforce has to offer. To discuss this more, or to ensure you have the IT talent you need to take your business to the next level, get in touch with the team at SustainAbility.