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IWD 2022: Overcoming the challenge of gender diversity
Tue, 8th Mar 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The IT industry is facing an ongoing problem. The gender balance that has been evident for many years remains entrenched, and a solution needs to be found.

Thankfully, there is a range of initiatives that can be undertaken by both the private and public sectors. Together, these will help to encourage more women to seek jobs in IT and enjoy long-term, successful careers.

A need for flexibility

One of the most important things technology companies can offer is flexibility. For example, rather than requiring employees to work from the office five days a week, there should be the chance to have home-based working in the mix.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown working from home is not only possible but can also improve productivity and boost employee morale. It also has been demonstrated that workforce flexibility can come in many forms. It's not just about where someone works but also when and how. All are important factors when trying to build a gender-diverse workforce.

Celebrate success

IT companies also need to become better at celebrating the success of their employees. For example, many women have reached senior roles in organisations, and this needs to be communicated with those considering joining the sector.
When you consider the typical female in the sector, they have beaten all the odds to get to where they now are. They broke away from stereotypes at a young age to pursue a passion for STEM.

They have also attended and graduated from university, where most of their fellow graduates were male. They have also managed to rise above imposter syndrome and build their confidence to work in a male-dominated industry. These are the kind of people any company would want on its team.

The role of government

The lack of women in the technology sector can be traced back to school and early learning. The industry needs governments and educational institutions to develop more school initiatives aimed at getting girls into STEM programs at a young age.

This will help break the cycle and see them pursuing technology as an exciting career option. Governments need to ensure adequate funding is made available for these programs and incentives for women to obtain STEM qualifications.

Benefits of a diverse workforce

Companies find there is much to like about diverse workforces. They are more creative and innovative, and they represent the customer base far better than teams in which everyone looks and thinks the same way.

Breaking the bias – the theme of International Women's Day 2022 – means finding ways to help under-represented groups to secure their seats at the table. In the ICT sector, women remain an under-represented group. They make up 44% of the professional industries workforce but hold only 16% of roles in the IT sector. One of the ways we can change those numbers is not just by welcoming women in but by welcoming them back in.

I work for a small software vendor doing this on a modest scale. We've begun partnering with STEM Returners, a multi-award-winning program, to shepherd and support workers who've had an extended career break back into the workforce.

Unsurprisingly, many of them are women. Their skills might be a little out of date, but often the biggest thing holding them back is a lack of confidence. Twelve-week paid internships provide these women with an opportunity to brush up on what they've missed, get some current experience on their CVs, and be reminded that they still have what it takes to survive and thrive in our exciting, fast-moving industry.

Solving the gender imbalance in IT is challenging but not impossible. Let's make it happen in 2022.

Article by Class chief people officer and head of investor relations, Jacqui Levings.