A tough time for progress on women in tech, and sexism & harassment continues

A tough time for progress on women in tech, and sexism & harassment continues


One in five women in IT have experienced sexual harassment, with more than half saying they had experienced gender discrimination in the past three years, according to a new Australian study.

Professionals Australia, a Melbourne-based workplace rights union, surveyed more than 300 people in a study that charts the landscape of the information and communications technology industry. ICT is roughly 28 percent female, falling well short of the 45 percent female average across other professional industries.

Jill McCabe, Professionals Australia chief executive, believes the findings ought to propel the industry into creating meaningful ways to support women.

“This report clearly demonstrates that more needs to be done to attract, retain and support women working the ICT sector,” she told AAP. “Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are illegal, damage the careers of affected workers and impact negatively on their health and safety.”

McCabe urged leaders across all industries to reassess their organisations and implement a wider culture of respect towards women. 

“Instilling greater diversity, fairness and balance into ICT workplaces is an investment which will return long-term social and economic benefits for the future of the sector,” she added.

The study also found a substantial pay gap between men and women; the mean base salary for men was $113,606. For women, it’s $109,000. Less than two-thirds of respondents said they had workplace policies in place to promote diversity.

The release of this report comes as news from the US underpins the reality that women have a much harder time in IT than men.

This week, California-based chipmaking giant Intel released their annual diversity and inclusion report, revealing that the percentage of women in the organisation went backwards: from 26.5 percent to 26.3 percent. The percentage of women in technical roles also dropped, from 23.7 percent to 23.5 percent. 

We know that in Australia, the pandemic has hit women harder than men — sadly, this has not been an exclusively national issue.

In September, McKinsey published its annual Women in the Workplace report, revealing that the COVID-19 pandemic may have erased at least six years’ worth of progress for women in the workplace.

The report showed that one in four women were thinking of downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.

Lareina Yee, senior partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer at McKinsey said the future is “grim” if things don’t change. The report found that men were less likely to be considering making moves such as reducing their work-hours, going part-time, taking a leave of absence or leaving altogether. 

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