Sisters are doing IT for themselves
The IT industry is a healthy, fast-moving and vibrant place to work. But why are women still turned off by tech?
Thankfully there is now a multitude of events - from those held by the British Computer Society (BCS) and womenintechnology.co.uk to industry and government-led or championed initiatives - but when it comes to this thorny issue more is always, well, more.
"Attending events like the London Hopper (organised by Women@CL and BCSWomen) was a really positive experience for me, as I got to see strong and successful women academics en masse. Being in that sort of environment can help to convince you that not only are you not on your own, but that it's possible to succeed and do well," says Dr Hannah Dee, research fellow, Cognitive Vision, at the University of Leeds and the new BCSWomen events co-ordinator.
"It's because of this that I'm organising the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium for undergraduate women in Leeds this summer - see for more details. We're going to put some really inspiring role models in front of women computing students, and provide a space for them to meet and network."
Pick a school, any school, and survey the youngsters as to what they want to be when they grow up and there will be few surprises. The success of David Beckham, Kylie Minogue et al has spawned many young minds to fantasise about how great the lives of footballers and pop stars are. But where are the IT role models?
Awards like BlackBerry's are a great start, but why isn't the industry shouting much louder and on a more regular basis about what women have done, and continue to do, for the industry?
Indeed, you'll find plenty of female names among the lists detailing the many unsung heroes of WWII. A large chunk of those sat behind 'computers' breaking code at Bletchley Park were, in fact, women. So there you have it. During wartime Britain, the girls weren't just stuck in factories and looking after family, they were providing a very technical contribution towards the war effort.
"The key to encouraging young people to consider a career in technology lies in raising awareness of the great opportunities that exist within the sector. The responsibility to provide more information and raise awareness of the inspiring role models that we know exist lies with everyone - teachers, parents, the government and particularly the technology industry," says Charmaine Eggberry, vice president and managing director of Research in Motion (RIM) in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Recent research by the Canadian computing giant revealed that almost three-quarters of girls aged 11-16 said there isn't enough female technology role models in the UK. Furthermore, if more information about the variety of jobs on offer in the tech sector was available more girls would consider it a more viable career choice.
"It's revealing to see that these points are considered as barriers to entry for girls looking to enter our sector. Yet I'm confident that with a combined effort from the industry, education, government and children's parents these can be easily broken down," adds Eggberry.
What are we looking for? Absolute equality
Back in the bad old days (up until when the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1975) women were still on an un-level pegging when it came to getting paid the same as their male counterparts for doing the same job. Unfortunately, it looks like the IT industry is still lacking behind when it comes to pay equality.
Although the divide is getting narrower and isn't as gulf-like as history sadly shows, there is still a marked difference in what jobs for the boys versus jobs for the girls are worth. Indeed, recent research published by e-skills UK shows that women working in the IT and telecoms space earn 20 per cent less than their male peers.
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