The significance of gender diversity in the workplace has been well-documented, with various studies showing that the more diverse perspectives there are in the room, the better the ideas, outcomes and ultimately the bottom line. One of the industries where the gender divide is most apparent is the tech sector, both globally and in Australia.
Despite a growing number of jobs in STEM, only a quarter of graduates in information and communications technology in the developed world are female – even though more women have degrees than men. Aussie women are falling behind our neighbouring countries with the Women in STEM Decadal Plan finding girls in Australia are the least likely out of all Asia-Pacific nations to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in school – only 27 per cent, compared to 76 per cent in China and 69 per cent in India.
The IT industry has long been dominated by men, but with digital technologies becoming more prevalent in our lives and being leveraged across all industries, there’s never been a better time for more women to consider a job in the tech sector.
If you’re still sitting on the fence about a career in tech, here are five things you need to consider:
Jobs of the future don’t exist yet: According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, 65 per cent of children starting primary school now, will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. These newly created roles will be underpinned by digital technologies and require completely new skillsets. With the move towards this digital future already underway, there is incredible potential for those who take the leap now and skill up to meet the ongoing demand for employees trained in technology.
Australia needs tech talent: The future of work will be dominated by jobs in STEM, but for now there is a huge shortage of these skills in Australia, with many organisations looking overseas to hire top tech talent to fill roles. Building strong technology skills within the country is a priority for the government, with over one billion dollars being invested in boosting the nation’s technology and innovation capabilities over recent years. Research shows that even a one per cent increase in people choosing a STEM career could contribute over $57 billion to the economy over 20 years.
The tech industry needs women: IT has traditionally been a “boys club” but it doesn’t have to be. In Australia, men accounted for 81 per cent of people with higher level STEM qualifications from 2010 to 2011, so there is huge opportunity for women to bridge the gender divide. We’re living in an age of AI and IoT around the home, and most smart assistants are “female” by default including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, with big tech companies claiming a woman’s voice is preferred by consumers. Science has also found that women have higher intuitiveness and empathy than men, which are invaluable qualities when developing tech products – female led innovation creates tech with more people in mind. In fact, Fortune found that women-led companies have historically performed three times better than those with male CEOs.
Be a part of technological change: We currently live in a world which is constantly advancing and IT has been a strong enabler in this change, with emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things transforming organisations across industries. Areas such as healthcare have benefited with cloud-based electronic health records. Technology is even transforming sports – using AI image recognition and big data analytics we’ve so far been able to track athletes at the Winter X Games to give viewers real-time performance data, and analyse goals (or no goals) at the FIFA World Cup. With all the innovation written into a job in tech, young women have the potential to be a part of these changes that are impacting us all.
Empower other women: According to a 2017 Microsoft survey, girls in the US consider tech careers at age 11 but lose interest soon after, with many blaming a lack of female mentors and gender diversity on this. With more women taking on STEM roles, we have the power to challenge the status quo and increase the voices of females in the industry. By considering a career in tech, you can empower more young girls who want to get involved.
Women Love Tech would like to thank Kris Grant, CEO of ASPL.