What's the key to closing the gender gap in the IT industry?
Lucy Ireland MBCS is the Managing Director of the British Computer Society (BCS), The Chartered Institute for IT, leading the Learning and Development subsidiary. The Institute promotes social and economic progress through the advancement of IT, science and practice, and Lucy plays a key role in this through leading teams for the past 20 years.
When we look at the positives, the UK has observed an increase of 3% (from 17% to 20%) of women in specialist IT positions over the last decade, illustrating the improvements that are being seen. The importance of gender diversity within businesses is growing and people are coming to realise the vast difference it can provide to productivity, but also viewpoints, ideas and insights.
For example, at the BCS Computing at Schools group (CAS), Lucy told us at GardPass Cyber that ‘the number of members has increased by 21% in a year, with a 50/50 ratio of male and female’ now. In addition, ‘the number of students taking a computer science degree increased by 7.6%’ (1% of those being women) in 2020, demonstrating a small, but paramount success for gender diversity. However, ‘females still only constitute 16.2% of all computer science students’, highlighting the need for action to encourage more women to this industry, but removing stereotypes, subtle biases and any intimidation of predominantly male environments that still exists.
As a result, although organisations have been campaigning for years, ‘progress to close the gap is painfully slow’, there is still a huge amount of work required. Lucy explained to us that ‘there is no magic bullet’ and that small changes are crucial to see progress, via ‘visible role models, more accessible recruitment practices, more flexible working, more unconscious bias training, and a greater understanding of the power of diverse teams’.
Over time, we believe that we will become a gender diverse industry, and we are extremely grateful to the many organisations such as the BCS who ‘work tirelessly to support more women into the IT and Cyber industries’. The underrepresentation of women is not directly related to discrimination, but to a subconscious behaviour that requires change.
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