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Why aren't there more women in IT?

Vera Alves | Aug. 15, 2012
Liz Coulter is used to having big shoes to fill - men sized ones, usually. The director of IT Services at the University of Auckland started her IT career in Australia before moving to England, then back to Australia and finally to New Zealand where she settled last year. And yes, the main motivator for the move across the ditch was a man. Her father was one of the first programmers in Australia who brought Ethernet down under and created AusCERT. Her IT career was almost decided at birth.

"There has never been a problem, I have never even thought about that," she says.

Simms currently employs a total of nine staff in New Zealand and the ratio is five males to four females, according to the company's managing director Paul Johnston.

"I take the view that companies must ensure the best candidates are given the jobs, irrespective of gender," he says. "As a father of three girls I want them to have absolute equality but do not want them to be given a job ahead of someone, just because they are a woman. If people have to 'actively think' about attracting women I think there could be some sort of underlying problem with them in the first place."

It might be this sort of workplace environment that makes Campbell say the gender ratio in IT is not an issue. "Is that even really a problem?" she asks. She says more women in IT would improve business but disagrees that the current numbers are an issue. She points out that some professions have bigger representation of one gender rather than the other (citing teaching as an example). Campbell has, however, noticed a lot more media coverage on the subject, particularly following Yahoo's recent CEO appointment, with Marissa Mayer taking on the role while pregnant, a move that some defined as a "landmark" for closing the gender gap in the industry. Prior to joining Yahoo, Mayer was also Google's first female engineer.

Breaking the boundariesDell runs a variety of different programmes, both internally and externally, with the final goal of growing the number of women in the IT industry, across all sectors. Deborah Harrigan's full-time job is overseeing Dell's small and medium business division in the ANZ region but she also finds the time to work in a number of these programmes.

One of those, WITEM (Women in IT Executive Mentoring), is an external programme that was started in 2005 by Dell's managing director ANZ, Joe Kremer, after he identified a "real gap for women in the industry", as Harrigan recalls. The programme has been running since then and marries up a CEO with a key female executive to receive mentoring for 12 months. The programme has been running in Australia and Harrigan says Dell is "looking to expand into New Zealand with it this year". Alongside that, other programmes target females in different levels of the business to help them move further up the hierarchy. The DWEN (Dell Women Entrepreneur Network) targets females in small and medium businesses and brings them together in a think thank where they can share stories and discuss views. Harrigan attended one of the annual events in New Delhi this year. "The energy in the room was palpable, it was very inspiring to see women breaking down the boundaries," she says.


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