Where are all the women in tech and IT?
It’s a question that Australia’s largest online employment marketplace, SEEK is scratching its head over, and it’s easy to understand why. Currently women hold only around a quarter of all tech roles in the country.
So where are we falling short? Is it the case that women simply aren’t interested in these career paths?
For Kathleen McCudden Group Director of HR at SEEK, the lack of women in STEM fields, is directly linked to a lack of awareness about what jobs may be out there.
“The technology industry is facing a shortage of female talent, and the pipeline of female technology graduates is also shrinking – since 2001, the number of females enrolling in IT undergraduate courses has declined by 65 percent.
“This has less to do with avoidance and more do with a lack of understanding of the diverse range of roles available, she says.
“Young women are often unaware of the diverse nature of the roles available in the tech industry and unaware that these roles are well within their reach. It’s creative, challenging, customer focused and it provides opportunities to solve some of the world’s most interesting problems.”
McCudden sees it as imperative for the government, tech companies and the education system to act on this awareness deficit. Engaging young women on the merits of a career in tech and also the multitude of options to consider in the industry, is key.
In this regard, SEEK is putting its money where its mouth is.
Through the ‘Camp SEEK’ program, the company introduces young women in years 9 and 10, to the creative and diverse world of technology. 40 girls from across Victorian schools are invited partake in the four-day program in Melbourne at the company’s headquarters.
Throughout the four days, participants hear from successful women and men in the field and start to get a better grasp on the fundamentals. “They learn the basics of how to create products for customers, and delve into user experience, coding and data science; before working on their own product to solve a real-life problem through a ‘Create-a-thon’” (akin to a hackathon) says McCudden.
It’s a hands-on, interactive and supportive program which challenges common stereotypes of what it means to work in tech.
Engaging women in these opportunities ahead of them selecting university preferences is crucial. It’s also something that (thankfully) many tech companies are working on. Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce and Vodafone represent just a handful of businesses in Australia and the world, which are attempting to tackle the female deficit through early engagement programs.
McCudden sees this as the most important step forward and believes that if women are introduced and exposed to opportunities across STEM fields from a young age, the significant gap that currently exists, will quickly close.
“If we can at a young age expose women to the full spectrum and diversity of roles in technology; project management, product management, coding, engineering, marketing as we are doing at Camp SEEK it will start to see the industry be seen as an achievable and rewarding career pathway for young women”