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Monday, 31 October 2011 15:50

ICT takes out hairy-chested gong


Guess which is the most hairy chested sector to work in as an ICT professional? Clue: it's not mining and it's not defence.

In fact the sector least likely to employ female ICT professionals is computer software manufacturing where only 3.8 per cent of the workforce is female according to the Australian Computer Society's 2011 employment survey which was released late last week.

The report, which collected 1,599 responses from its membership, found that overall 84.4 per cent of respondents were male and 15.6 per cent female. The most female friendly work places for women are insurance followed by health, which have 25:75 and 19.7:80.3 gender splits respectively.

Down at the other end of the scale only 11.4 per cent of ICT workers in the defence sector are women, and 12 per cent of quarrying and mining's ICT professionals are female. But in computer software manufacturing the figure plunges to 3.8 per cent.

Maggie Alexander, one of the founding members of Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT), said that the low number could be as a result of the question asked in the ACS survey. She said that women were in fact making headway in software manufacturing, but were increasingly represented in usability and systems design roles rather than in straight coding.

The question asked however was a very straightforward one - 'in which industry are you mainly engaged' - which is unlikely to have been misinterpreted.

Ms Alexander acknowledged that the fundamental problem was that too few girls were studying science and maths in schools, which might encourage them to then study computer related topics at university.

Certainly discrimination seems to be less of a problem than the raw numbers might suggest as the ACS survey found that only 3.3 per cent of respondents had ever suffered discrimination based on their gender. While women reported that they had experienced more discrimination than their male peers (accounting for all forms of discrimination including, race, ethnicity and age as well as gender) the extent of gender discrimination remained low.

In the last little while there has been significant progress in terms of women's elevation in the IT industry. Meg Whitman was appointed CEO of HP, Virginia Rometty at CEO of IBM, and closer to home Suzanne Campbell is the recently appointed chief executive of the Australian Information Industry Association. There are also examples of high flying chief information officers led by women such as NAB's Anne Weatherston and AMP's Lee Barnett.

But as the ACS report makes clear, these women remain exceptions to the rule as very few females are making it to the top of the tree.  Although around one in six Australian ICT professionals is female, only about one in 17 chief information officers is a woman.

The ACS survey paints the average CIO as male, 48 years old, working in ICT for almost 25 years and putting in about 53 hours' work a week.


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