IT departments need a national campaign to bring in more female talent

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Recent headlines involving Google and women in technology illustrate how much work is still needed in the IT industry to close the gender gap and truly bring more women into the IT ranks.

Earlier this year it was reported that Google was committing "$1 million to 40 global organizations that work with startup companies to encourage them to find ways to bring more women into the fields of business and technology." The effort was part of a program called #40 Forward, which aims to increase the number of women working in communities served by these global startups by 25 percent in 2014.

But a subsequent article about Google last month illustrates how many technology companies still have a long way to go when it comes to diversity hiring in IT.

As to its own workforce, "After much wrangling, Google has finally released its workplace diversity report and worryingly for the company, shows a considerable lack of diversity both in terms of gender and race," notes an article at Silicon Republic.

As for specifics, the article cites from the Google blog page on its release. "Across the company's entire global workforce, only 30 percent of its employees are women, the majority of which comprise non-technology roles (48 percent). When this is broken down further into two different job categories of 'tech' and 'leadership,' women's role in Google is even less than 30 percent of its employees involved in tech while female leadership roles only account for 21 percent."

This gender imbalance is by no means unique. And it may be especially problematic at the top.

"The proportion of women in information technology leadership positions has moved little over the past decade, and that statistic may even be trending downward," notes a recent article at NextGov.

That article cites a study of the IT workforce and CIO demographics by Harvey Nash, which finds that only 7 percent of CIOs globally are women. And despite recognition that there is a serious problem here, the proportion of women in IT in the past decade has remained "stubbornly low" the report concludes.

Other recent studies have reported similar findings. But they also reveal that within IT there are certain job areas that have an especially dismal time of attracting women.

The recent salary survey from Information Week revealed that in the IT security space, only 14 percent of staff and 10 percent of managers are women.

Writing in the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year, columnist Mike Cassidy noted that "if there is any hope of reversing the stunning decline of women's participation in computing, it is going to take an effort of moonshot magnitude radiating from Washington, DC."

Let's hope that is not the case. But if there is one most important message to come out of a moonshot magnitude challenge, it is that they can be met.

The IT industry and tech employers need to do a better job of encouraging young women to pursue careers in information technology. There certainly are plenty of public and private initiatives underway to encourage STEM graduates, but that isn't enough.

As a nation, we need to require students to complete at least one computer science course to graduate high school. We need to encourage more girls to take the AP computer science test as a means of inspiring them to go with their studies. And we need government to launch a major STEM public awareness campaign as a national priority.

That is exactly what is happening in the UK, where the government recently launched the Your Life campaign to convince more young women to study STEM subjects and embark on tech careers. The goal is to double the number of women taking engineering and technology degrees by the year 2020. And, admirably, Google is one of the corporate supporters of that program.

As has been noted in FierceCIO, the continued gender gap in IT is bad for business. Equally important, it does a continued disservice to young women in this country, who are being underrepresented in one of the most exciting and rewarding career areas possible. - David

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