That’s according to the latest Australian Computer Society Digital Pulse report, just released in partnership with Deloitte Access Economics.
Australia’s ICT workforce grew to 663,100 workers in 2017, and demand looks set to continue over the next five years.
But those graduating from domestic ICT degrees is still under 5000 a year.
And the ICT sector continues to have a diversity problem, with just 28% of those working in the field being female and just 12% aged over 55. That compares with 45% and 15% respectively across all professional industries.
The most disappointing thing about the figure on women’s representation in the sector is that it has hardly changed at all since the ACS started publishing this information in 2015.
The further predicted skill shortages in ICT present a great opportunity for women to get involved, no matter what their age. But ICT organisations need to do their bit to ensure their workplaces are welcoming and open, and to also get out in the market and promote the opportunities they have to a wider cohort of people. While a quick and easy answer would be to suggest that companies in the space specifically target girls and young women on the benefit of ICT skills and careers, such programs and initiatives must run much wider than that.
Tech companies should aim to better target ambitious women at any age, regardless of their current career and occupation. Indeed, based on the findings of our 2017 Ambition Report surveying the ambitions of more than 2000 women, we know there’s a large cohort of women looking to get stuck into big opportunities and new careers by making a full-time return to the workforce — in many cases after taking extensive career breaks to have children. They’re seeing decades ahead of work and time to accelerate their careers, and are finding they now have the time and space go full throttle — but many told us the biggest barriers they’re facing involve struggling to get that first job in a new area.
Women with an interest in ICT, at any age should have the opportunity to get involved, to change careers, to cross industry sectors, to make their mark on something that might be completely different to the career they imagined leaving high school.
While going into high schools, as the ACS report suggests, will do some good in inspiring girls to see the many opportunities available in the tech sector (and is still important), these ideas and initiatives are not new. Some companies have been doing this for many years, and the dial has not shifted on the number of women currently working in tech since 2015.
There are easier wins for tech companies in aiming to appeal to women in the employment market right now. They may not have the perfect qualification, but they may well be willing to do what it takes to achieve the skills required — with some guarantees and assurances that their age or gender, their parenting status or caring responsibilities or something else won’t stand in the way of them ultimately being employed and earning a fair and equal income compared to their male counterparts.
Meanwhile, the ICT sector needs to do more to immediately address its gender pay gap. The ACS finds an average pay gap of around 20% across the ICT sector, higher than the national gender pay gap, and a figure again that hasn’t shifted in the last few years. Examples like that of what Energy Australia achieved in literally closing its gender pay gap over night might be useful for employers in this space.
The report authors warn that Australia “could end up a passenger in the digital journey” and miss the flow-on impacts of higher living standards and productivity, as we continue to grapple with the transition from the mining boom.
Without more women involved, it’s difficult to see how Australia can aim to advance as a strong competitor in the tech space, especially given the predicted rise in skill shortages across blockchain, artificial intelligence, data science and cyber security.