How can we improve the representation of women in IT? That was the question I tried to answer in my previous blog post . And since there seemed to be no single magical solution at hand, I instead offered up a couple of different solutions, such as the use of quotas and role models. Here are two more of those solutions.
Getting girls interested in STEM
The fact that women have traditionally shown less interest than men in studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – and that they continue to do so even to this day - is a major problem. That goes without saying, really. However, it is not the only problem we have to overcome, and probably not even the main one. Especially since many studies have shown that women have more degrees than men but get fewer high positions. Still, having more girls study STEM subjects would of course help to lower the gender gap.
The major issue here is that interesting girls in STEM studies today would only start to solve our current diversity problem in minimum 15 years. That would be in a perfect world, where parents and teachers are able to drop their stereotypes right now and all girls are immediately allowed to pursue the path that most appeals to them.
Luckily then, education is not just the prerogative of kids, teens, and young adults. Adults too, even as they are already employed, can take up a STEM study or an IT training in order to make a career shift. If they do so through a short-term (i.e. less than a year), out-of-school training program, they can even enjoy the added benefit of being taught the newest technologies. The fact that they are trained to be job-ready, with a lot of hands-on practice, should also appeal to their employers.
Ultimately, everything depends on the willingness of today’s employers to accept those new profiles and to see the benefits of hiring people who had another career before and outside of tech. If they manage to shift their point of view and put a priority on soft skills, hands-on experience, and know-how instead of degrees, it will allow women to get better opportunities.
“IT is more than programming”: selling non-technical jobs in IT to women
Another way of interesting women in IT is to point out that our sector offers more than just the technical functions women usually – and often exclusively - associate with it. In reality, many functions in IT require no more computer knowledge than any random white-collar job. More specifically, in our industry too, there are high-level or management positions that don’t require any programming skills or hardware knowledge. You can even encounter IT managers who only have a background in management but not in IT.
There is a real danger lurking around the corner here too, however. In the sense that this solution could easily serve as a conscious approach to keep women away from technical jobs, creating a form of segregation within the tech world. At the same time, companies obliged to hire women to reach their quotas could look upon this approach as a really easy way of doing just that.
It is therefore important that women are present at all levels, in all kinds of jobs in the tech industry. Moreover, if we are truly seeking diversity in order to have everyone represented in the design and conception of IT tools, women should also be able to take part in the actual production process, switching from passive to active participation. If they like.
If you wish to find out why gender diversity in the workplace matters in the first place, check out this previous blog post.
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