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'Frightening' statistics call for urgent action for more women in IT: VMware

Rimin Dutt | Nov. 22, 2012
With several unflattering statistics showing significantly fewer women in the Australian ICT industry and continued gender-based pay disparity, it is critical that hiring managers and IT organisations in Australia take urgent action to address the gap, highlighted a recent panel on Women in ICT hosted by VMware.

With several unflattering statistics showing significantly fewer women in the Australian ICT industry and continued gender-based pay disparity, it is critical that hiring managers and IT organisations in Australia take urgent action to address the gap, highlighted a recent panel on Women in IT hosted by VMware.

Speaking at the panel, VMware A/NZ channels manager, Rhody Burton, highlighted some sobering statistics: About 18 per cent of the ICT workforce in Australia is made up of women even though women make up about half of the working population. The pay disparity is even more stark: the 2012 Remuneration Survey conducted by the Australian Computer Society found that men in ICT earn, on average, 9.8 per cent more than women, even though women entering the industry start on comparable or slightly higher salaries.

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These dismal numbers are despite studies that show diverse teams help in achieving better business outcomes and more innovation, said Burton. Australia also faces a talent shortage. An ageing workforce means there is an imperative to have more women join the workforce, she said.

"We know the business case," Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) director, Helen Conway, said. "We have talked to the agency to stop doing the research."

According to Conway, businesses and hiring managers haven't internalised the business case and doing research over research is just an "obfuscation" of the matter that requires urgent attention.

VMware managing director, Duncan Bennet, added, "Diversity needs to be a core operating principle. He said gender diversity is one of the metrics the VMWare Australian business is measured on a quarterly basis, along with other business drivers and indicators.

According to Conway, the three biggest problems that the IT industry needs to address are recruitment, the gender pay gap and the allocation of bonuses.

One way companies can address this problem is by attacking it at the grassroots level such as through high school programs. That is where at least part of the problem appears to be emerging and, indeed, numbers show this disparity: About 20 per cent of over student enrollments for computer science can from women, Burton noted. In the coding area of the sciences, the disparity was even more stark with men outnumbering women at 19 to one.

Telstra transformation director, Grainne Kearns, emphasised some of the onus lies with women themselves.

"You have to figure out what you want," said Kearns. "You have a plan for a divorce, a wedding. Why wouldn't you have a plan for your career? Then you have to execute that plan."

Kearns believes government regulation and setting quotas can urge companies to take action.

 

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