For years organisations have debated the causes and solutions to our ongoing IT skills shortage in Australia.
In 2018, the skills shortage problem is no longer just a moving target; it’s a runaway train. Forty per cent of existing university degrees will soon be obsolete, according to recent research from accounting firm EY. All industries and professions are being threatened by a lack of digital skills. We need more people with the skills to help our organisations adapt to rapid technological change.
It seems glaringly obvious, therefore, that to resolve the skills gap issue we need to tackle the diversity gap head on. Women make up less than a third of all STEM university graduates in Australia, and, according to a recent report by Australia’s Chief Scientist, women comprise just 16 percent of the total STEM workforce.
It is a massive untapped talent pool.
Many companies and educational institutions are waking up to this, but more action is needed to make tech a career for all and fill the skills shortage.
Invest in STEM training at all levels
Schools are starting to do more to encourage STEM competencies, particularly among girls, but we need STEM learning at all levels and phases of work that is inspiring and accessible. Take a good look at the women you have in your organisation and think about how to you utilise them in STEM related roles. How are you cultivating your female workforce to undertake STEM roles within your organisation? What training do they need to do those roles? Would they be interested in taking on a different role to the one they have? Then find a good partner who can deliver that training, in small, bite-sized chunks, whether via book or mobile phone and make it easily accessible anytime, anywhere.
Skillsoft recently entered a partnership with social enterprise Code Like a Girl, which runs educational workshops and offers internships to girls and women around Australia to encourage them to choose careers in the tech industry. Through the partnership, Code Like a Girl’s interns will have access to Skillsoft’s intelligent learning platform, Percipio, empowering them to curate their own coding training that is aligned with their position, needs and goals.
Continuous learning is a critical part of self-development. Every company should be investing in STEM training throughout the work lifecycle and enabling better career mobility for all regardless of their gender, job title or location.
Cast the fishing net
Last year, in an address to the finalists of the Women in Leadership awards, Dr Kirsten Ferguson said we didn’t just need to throw a ladder down to help women get a step up, we need to throw a massive fishing net.
Women in tech, particularly women leaders, must be more than role models; they need to be active in bringing other women on board. They need to speak up and advocate for recruitment, training and workplace policies within their organisations that will increase the appeal for other women to join – and stay.
Whole organisations should be rallying behind female talent. Last year Skillsoft joined Paradigm for Parity®, a coalition formed by a diverse group of current and former CEOs and business leaders committed to gender parity. The Action Plan includes a series of commitments such as minimising unconscious bias in the workplace, significantly increasing the number of women in senior operating roles, and basing career progress on results rather than physical presence in the office.
Tackle the pay gap
There’s another giant diversity alarm bell the tech industry needs to be addressing in the form of the pay gap. This year many global tech companies agreed to publish their pay gap stats, and the results were shameful. Facebook’s bonuses for female staff were 41.5 percent lower than men’s. Apple’s median bonus pay was less than half that of men at 57 percent.
To get women into tech the promise of opportunity needs to be genuine. Pay gap legislation should be seriously considered, across industries, not just tech. Iceland for instance, has passed a law making it the employer’s responsibility to prove employees are being paid equally. This is necessary because, culturally, we are notoriously bad at talking about our salaries. Enshrining this in law would force us all to deal with the consequences.
Transparency across hiring and pay is needed to create workplaces where women feel welcome and valued.
It’s nonsensical for the industry to continually look for talent from the existing shallow pool rather than investing in a massive opportunity right in front of us. If we’re serious about combatting the skills gap, then the private sector, educational institutions and governments should be joining forces to address the industry’s diversity problem.