The lack of women in IT roles is leading some firms to favour highly qualified female applicants over their male competitors in a bid to better spread opportunity and drive workplace diversity.
At least this is the case at William Buck Victoria where General Manager Fi Slaven runs the HR, finance, marketing, admin and IT policies for the accounting services provider.
“If I had two people who were exactly the same I would be leaning towards a woman at the moment to give them an opportunity because there’s so few of us,” she told Dynamic Business.
Ms Slaven is the director of “Go Girl, Go for IT” which encourages schoolgirls in years 8 to 11 to consider entering into IT orientated positions through career showcases run by the Victorian ICT for Women network. Over 1200 girls from 50 schools attended this year’s showcase event at Deakin University in August.
According to a July 2013 ICT workforce study conducted by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), women occupy less than 20 per cent of positions in the majority of ICT occupations. Men aged between 25 and 44 take-up the majority of jobs.
“There is a lack of women sometimes applying. And part of that is because the pipeline isn’t there and that is why you need a ‘Go Girl’ approach,” Ms Slaven said.
While Ms Slaven has championed efforts to encourage more young women into IT based careers, she is also a passionate advocate of individual firms doing more to attract female staff.
At William Buck Victoria she has sought to provide more flexible women friendly work arrangements while broadening advertising strategies.
“People have to advertise flexibility. You need to have a plan in place. Then like any good action plan you need to monitor if it’s working for the firm, the person involved and the team,” she said. “The (job) rewards in the past have also been more male dominated… One of the things is we know that women want different things to men.”
According to the 2013 ICT workforce study, women were “more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to find lack of workplace flexibility and long working hours very demotivating”.
Australia also ranks below the OECD average when it comes to female representation in tertiary level courses across the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses. Ms Slaven said this had repercussions in terms of the number of females going into business for themselves with about 75 per cent of the fastest growing professions in Australia drawing on STEM skills.
The government’s national industry, innovation and competitiveness agenda last week included $12 million in new funding for STEM education and $3.5 million for computer coding.
Ms Slaven welcomed the additional funding as a step in the right direction, but wanted to ensure the money went to where it achieved the best “bang for buck”.