With various incidents in the media drawing public attention to gender gaps not only in pay, but in traditionally male-dominated industries, women’s role in IT is continually coming under scrutiny.
But is obliging companies to employ a certain number of women the way to tackle this issue? Gillian Arnold believes it is. In the recent Tech Republic article Time for IT jobs to be set aside for women Arnold states that other initiatives have been slow to work:
“Think about the collective hours of effort that have gone into trying to encourage women to join these professions. That’s an enormous amount. We haven’t issued any quotas but maybe it’s time.”
The number of women taking on IT related qualifications is on the up, but it is slow progress. Cultural attitudes take time to change and there are a lack of technical female role models in contemporary media; the enduring image of an IT specialist being the archetypal male ‘nerd’– an image damaging to professionals of any gender.
And could colleagues respect a co-worker that they knew or suspected had been employed to fulfil an imposed quota system? In the long run, could this not be more damaging?
If more is done in the media, in education and employment to alter public preconceptions and shift attitudes about traditionally gender-specific roles diversity is sure to follow. And it’s already taking place: take Lego as a case-in-point; the popular toy received considerable criticism about their ‘girls’ branded range featuring princesses, hairdressers and an overwhelming amount of pink. Subsequently, Lego have released a Professional Girls range, where female figurines are scientists, astronomers and paleontologists. Is this something that would have happened twenty years ago? Ten, even?
This clearly reflects a change in public attitudes towards the representation of women in the media and in the professional sector, but it takes time for people to adapt to these attitude shifts and for the changes to manifest themselves. Opening up opportunities culturally and socially and making IT roles a desirable role for everyone will ensure that employers are able to access as wide a cross-section of IT professionals as necessary to ensure that the best person for the role is given the job.
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