Less than 25% of workers in Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry are female, new statistics show, amid accusations that the sector is failing to retain women long-term.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Labour Market Survey for February last year – the latest figures available – there are 131,059 women employed in the ICT industry.
This represents just over 24% of the total workforce.
Maree Adshead, chief executive of Queensland ICT company MobileIP, is also chair of the Queensland branch of the Australian Information and Industry Association.
Adshead says while this figure is higher than that of other world centres, namely Europe, it is still concerning.
According to a white paper titled Women and ICT: Why are girls still not attracted to ICT studies and careers?, ICT is the major driver of growth in productivity in the European Union.
Despite this, less than one in five computer scientists are female.
With regard to Australia, Adshead says there is definitely a dearth of women in the ICT industry.
“We debate the issue time and time again to try and solve it but there is no easy answer,” she says.
According to Adshead, the entry level representation of women into the industry is high, but many do not remain in the industry for the duration of their careers.
“Women come into the industry but don’t stay, and it’s the fact that they don’t stay that seems to be more pronounced in ICT than it is in other industries,” she says.
“Is it because it’s a very fast-paced, technology-driven industry that once you leave you may feel is hard to get back into and catch up on what has happened since you were gone?
“I don’t know. This could be part of the reason, but senior women are not easy to find.”
Adshead’s comments reflect the sentiments of fellow female tech entrepreneur Kate Kendall, who believes women are put off by the male-centric mindset within the industry.
“I do tend to think the tech community is a bit of a bro fest… It’s a welcoming environment to enter but it’s not an environment people want to stick around in,” Kendall told StartupSmart.
“[Women are] still a long way off getting equal support and representation.”
Adshead said talented women from the ICT field are highly attractive to other sectors because of their technical skills and expertise, which could also explain their departure from the sector.
“ICT women seem to be in demand outside the industry. The industry spreads far beyond technically skilled people.”
“ICT is home to lawyers, accountants and all manner of other professionals. I find it hard to imagine a more vibrant and exciting industry to be a part of.”
“So we should be looking closely at how we attract and retain women in ICT. The ICT industry is bursting with opportunity.”