Tomorrow’s Women, Tomorrow’s World
It is a bad sign that even the most talented IT minds in the country can’t get the projector to work. Although Sue Black did an excellent job, yesterday’s BCS event failed to be a success.
The evening’s purpose was to address the issue of low numbers of women working in technical jobs, and what we can do to change it. Although I wasn’t expecting much, Sue, the panel’s chair opened the discussion with a fascinating point. In the 1960’s and 1970s, approximately 50% of IT departments were made up of women. Over the past 20 year, the number of women working in IT departments has stabilized around 20%. All of the initiatives Sue and other members of the panel participated in have failed.
(Alison Phipps, the author of a book about women’s participation in ICT. She also reached the same conclusion. We are grateful for all our efforts but the initiatives have not had a significant effect.
Rebecca George, a Deloitte partner with over 20 years of experience at IBM, said that the lackluster impact was due in part to the fact that we tried small, independent and fragmented initiatives. She is currently the chair of the BCS’s Women’s Panel Strategic Forum. She is currently working with other organizations and networking groups to encourage men to take only two to three major initiatives. She stated last night that women will benefit from the IT profession if it is made available to all.
It is vital to get women into IT jobs as soon as possible, including IT project managers. Rob Macredie (Brunel Professor of Interactive Systems), stated that “the number of women studying Computer Science” is “worrying.” He believes that the number of women studying Computer Science will decrease the higher the university ranks. This gender imbalance is also apparent in the staff.
Education proved to be a sensitive topic. One person in the audience pointed out that back then there wasn’t a Computer Science program, which is why there was so much diversity. Employers were forced by the law to train Medieval History students. Rob stated that employers now expect graduates who can work at universities. In today’s job market, specialization is crucial. If you’re looking for a project manager who is proficient in their trade, a PMP(r), PRINCE2 (r), Practitioner is the best choice. Not for English graduates who require training. Rob said that it’s a good idea for a specialist in education to ensure there is a good mix of genders on the course.
Rebecca stated, “The reason why I’m still there it because we will make a difference if we keep trying.” She is right. The best teams are those with the most diverse members, regardless of whether they are working on IT projects.
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