Complete rethink required to boost female ICT participation

ICT

A report has found that increasing the participation of women in the Australian ICT profession will require a completely new approach to the way our current workforce, school education sector, and vocational and higher education systems operate.

The report, The Promise of Diversity – Gender Equality in the ICT Profession, released by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), found that women represent only 28 per cent of the ICT workforce compared to 43 per cent in the wider professional workforce.

Launching the report, ACS president Brenda Aynsley OAM, said, “It’s clear that, in Australia, women are significantly underrepresented in the critical ICT profession. We must urgently address the ongoing gender imbalance in the workforce. If we get it right, there will be a substantial economic dividend for our nation.”

The report stated that a mix of short and long-term initiatives will be required, as well as a fundamental and urgent change to the cultural mindset and attitudes to women in the workforce.

Among the report’s recommendations are creating initiatives aimed at improving the self-confidence of girls in their own abilities in maths and science, creating a school environment which actively encourages girls to pursue a digital career, introducing a mandatory Digital Technologies curriculum, and developing a marketing program aimed at changing perceptions of what a digital career can offer.

“We must also address and repair elements of the education supply chain to encourage more female students to pursue a career in the digital space.  The clear message from our research is that by the time girls reach 15, a large proportion have either already dismissed or not even considered the option of a career in ICT.

“We need to market far better to young female students. This must include providing them with accurate and contemporary advice on the jobs of the future and the importance of digital skills in that future. We also need the ICT profession to work closely with teachers, parents and career advisors, the key influencers of student career choices.  And we need to encourage passionate, successful ICT female role models to be ambassadors for our profession and to inspire our next generation of ICT female professionals,” Aynsley said.

The paper can be found online at http://bit.ly/promiseofdiversity.

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