Pay gap, lack of role models to blame for ICT gender imbalance in Australia
It’s an interesting set of claims in Australia to explain the lack of women in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in this article. I’m wondering about the notion of “role model” and how it plays a role in this story. Do you think that young women see the senior management in ICT companies? Do high school or college students know what the gender split is in the companies that might employ them?
When we introduced Media Computation, I thought that it would play a role in recruitment. Over 50% of students in Liberal Arts, Architecture, and Business would withdraw or fail the required CS course before we created Media Computation. Now that we have a CS course that 85% of those students pass each semester, that should draw in more students, shouldn’t it? We looked, but never saw evidence of that. There’s just not much of a feedback mechanism from undergraduate back to high school.
I do believe that the lack of women in upper management can be a deterrent to other women. “Unlocking the Clubhouse” talked about the phenomenon of women entering CS classes, seeing no other women, and wondering, “Do I belong here?” I expect that the lack of women in ICT management sends a signal to other women, “People like you don’t belong.” But I wonder if that signal reaches all the way down to high school or college.
The pay gap between women and men in IT and the lack of senior female role models are the main reasons why young women are not taking up a career in ICT, according to Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).
Speaking ahead of an address to the VMWare Women in IT event in Sydney today, EOWA director Helen Conway used the research from the 2012 Remuneration Survey conducted by the Australian Computer Society to show how serious an issue the gender pay gap is in the industry. She said the research found that men in ICT earn, on average, 9.8 per cent more than women, even though women entering the industry start on comparable or slightly higher salaries.
With not enough women entering the industry, Conway said this has resulted in a lack of senior role models for young women to look up to, which further contributes to the problem of young women not thinking of IT as a suitable career choice.