Tara O'Sullivan (CMO in Skillsoft*), writing in Computer Business Review this month, tells us that "Women are an untapped resource of IT talent" - for example, only 12.8% of the UK STEM workforce is female. No surprise there, but she offers four interesting ideas for addressing this situation in businesses. In an article entitled "Diversity and the Digital Skills Deficiency" she has a simple message - "get more people involved in tech".
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Idea #1 - Invest in STEM training
It seems obvious to invest in STEM training, but more opportunity needs to be provided to women to re-skill in the workforce - to gain what O'Sullivan calls "career mobility". She further advises that 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". This is not easy to achieve, may cost a lot of money, but is worth it to address IT skills shortages.
Idea #2 - Be proactive
Obvious again, but organisations need to change their attitude to "rally behind female talent". Women in senior positions can provide leadership to achieve this.
Idea #3 - Mind the Pay Gap
O'Sullivan quotes figures to show that men in high-tech companies earn 25% more than women in the UK. She recommends that countries should follow the example of Iceland where a law was passed in June 2017 making it the employer’s responsibility to prove that employees are being paid equally.
Idea #4 - If I can’t see it, I can’t be it
O'Sullivan points out that we need to have more examples of women in Tech to "demonstrate the attraction of the career to women". At just 12.8% of the UK STEM workforce it will not be easy to find role models for this. On a recent visit to a company I was in an administration office where every single employee in the room was female. As O'Sullivan puts it - "the biggest untapped resource that they [businesses] have: their female employees".
In one of my classes last semester, 24 out of 80 registered students was female - that 30%. A bit better than the UK's STEM workforce (12.8%), but still a significant minority. I hope to see more female students in class this coming academic year. It is also our job as Colleges to make IT courses more attractive to women. Here's one of my former students (in an NCI ad) telling us how one of our IT courses (Data Analytics) changed her life:
* I left Skillsoft in September 2002 shortly after the company I worked for (SmartForce) was taken over by Skillsoft. I have never met Tara O'Sullivan