Who says girls aren’t interested in IT careers? They are – or at least they can be – if you give show them interesting and inspiring female role models who’re working in the field.
That’s a big part of the reason reason why over 1300 school girls descended on Deakin University’s Burwood Campus yesterday to learn all about IT careers at the Go Girl, Go for IT event.
Run by the Victorian ICT for Women Network, the event aimed to showcase the wide range of IT-related careers available for girls, debunk the myth that such careers are for “no personality nerds”, and get more young women studying business IT or IT at the tertiary level.
There are plenty of great female role models in this sector, but too few women in general to promote the benefits of pursuing such careers.
It’s a problem that is evident across the world, and reflected in the too small numbers of women represented at our major tech giants. Apple is the latest to release its diversity numbers today, revealing that women make up just 30% of its worldwide workforce, just 28% of leadership roles and only 20% of its tech roles.
The figures reflect what’s becoming an industry standard: Women account for 30% of the workforce at Google, 31% at Facebook and 37% at Yahoo. The numbers are even smaller when tech-related roles are analysed.
It’s a problem Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said is unlikely to change unless the numbers of girls pursuing technology-based degrees at university increase.
But it’s a chicken and egg scenario: girls will only pursue such degrees if they can see opportunities for themselves in tech companies. And for as long as the stereotypical IT worker or coding enthusiast is presented as a hoodie-wearing white male who likes to do his best work at 3am, they’re unlikely to see how they could fit in such a scenario.
This is the thinking behind the Victorian ICT for Women Network’s career day yesterday, showing real and interesting women who are achieving incredible things in technology – including great leadership roles. Twitter managing director Karen Stocks gave a keynote address stressing the importance of education, the fact its ok not to have a life plan and that sustained performance earns credibility. Other speakers included ANZ’s Michelle Dobson, Telstra’s Anna Leibel, CBA’s Charlotte Wylie and NAB’s Tammy Butow, who all shared what they do and why they love it.
Compared to other industries, the Australian technology sector is doing remarkably well when it comes to women in senior leadership positions, especially with Pip Marlow leading Microsoft, Maile Carnegie running Google Australia and Stocks at Twitter.
But the gender diverse future of the sector will only be as good as the pipeline of girls purusing tech-related degrees and careers.
The Go Girl, Go for IT event showed just what industry groups can do to help inspire young girls. A little bit of organising and volunteering can certainly go a long way.