As the Vice President of ACS Community Boards (Women, Young IT, Community Engagement) I am honoured and delighted to offer my support for this important supplement.
The ICT career offers so many positives – it is a career that is transportable globally, that opens opportunities across any industry, that provides diversity in pathways that are unmatched by any other industry, and is itself a young and vibrant industry that is transforming the world we live in. So why are we still struggling to attract girls to the ICT industry?
I believe that organisations need to implement fundamental changes to work practice in order to embed gender intelligence, and additionally creating policies for gender equity and workplace diversity.
Government policies and initiatives are necessary to fuel targeted changes in gender diversity both in education and for businesses. Self-employed women in ICT and Women who run ICT in small and medium enterprises are not currently included in the overall government policies relating to female employees. This means that they currently do not receive maternity leave or other benefits that females employed in large organisations do. In order to attract and retain more females in the industry, it is important to gain government support so that these policies can be changed to include all women as opposed to simply those in large organisations.
It is important to create a community awareness of the diverse nature of ICT career and ICT educational pathways. When speaking with others at social gatherings, the common assumption is that you have to be good at programming to take up ICT. To make matters worse, the old perception of programming in the 80s is still prevalent, and there is no suggestion that programming is as fun and exciting as it really is.
A basic understanding of the plethora of choices from coding to engineering, to multimedia to robotics at the time when school students are making subject and career choices will help them in their decision to pursue ICT. Schools should promote the diverse options that are available to students from a young age so that the students are more aware of what subjects they need to undertake.
Our objective is to encourage more women to the ICT industry, and once they are in it, to ensure that they stay. In order to do this, I strongly believe that we must attempt to change young female perceptions from a young age. This can be done through primary and secondary school science, maths and technology classes. These are critical stepping stones for girls to develop a passion for becoming creators and developers of technology.
The British Government has revealed plans to teach children as young as 11 about careers in cyber-security, amid concerns that the UK is suffering from a shortage of skilled cyber security professionals. The Digital Curriculum reforms will see the inclusion of digital literacy from primary school.
The more females that step up into boards and Senior ICT roles responsible for formulating policies and work cultures, the more female role models we will obtain. With a diverse and equal representation of males and females in senior roles, the more likely women are to pursue similar roles and to stay in the industry.
I welcome you to this special edition of Information Age.
Rathika Suresh, ACS VP Community.