International Women's Day has prompted a number of organisations to examine the uneven gender distribution in the IT industry, and examine ways in which technology can improve the lives of women at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Statistics show that women only account for 19% of Britain's IT workforce, and women working in IT managerial positions are being paid almost 30% less than men. BCSWomen, part of BCS, the chartered institute for IT, believes that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the profession, and support those who may be returning to work after a career break.
“The IT industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK but, at the moment, there are not enough women joining the profession,” says Gillian Arnold, chair of BCSWomen. “All of us use IT in our everyday lives but few women are responsible for the design and development.”
BCSWomen is currently working with various employers in the public and private sectors to help them better understand the importance and benefits that come with a more diverse workplace.
Meanwhile, the the World Economic Forum has named Maggie Berry, founder of Women in Technology, as one of 192 Young Global Leaders (YGLs), for her “professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world”. Women in Technology is an information portal offering inromation on the latest IT jobs, news, events listings and career advice for women working in IT.
“Women account for one half of potential talent base throughout the world and progress depends on how female talent is engaged in leadership roles,” said WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab. “Within the World Economic Forum community, the YGLs represent the voice of the future and the hopes of the next generation.”
The GSM Association is putting a different focus on International Women's Day with the release of a new report, focusing on how mobile phones are helping some of the poorest women in the world improve their lives. In developing countries, mobile phones are seen as a symbol of independence, but many are held back due to issues of digital illiteracy and gender politics.
Of those married women surveyed who said they did not want a mobile phone, 74% said it was because their husbands would not allow it, and 64% said that owning a mobile phone would make their husbands suspicious. Meanwhile, 22% said the main reason that didn't want to own a mobile phone was because they “wouldn’t know how to use it”.
GSMA said that the mobile industry and development organisations needed to address these issues through educational activities that highlight the benefits of mobile communication for the whole family – such as mobile healthcare and enabling entrepreneurship.
One non-profit organisation that uses mobile technology to empower girls and young women in Africa is Camfed (the Campaign for Female Education). With funding from the Ajahma Charitable Trust, Camfed is building an “end-to-end digitalised data collection and analysis system”, designed to give communities the tools and the skills to track resources, monitor education quality and demand accountability from government and schools through the use of live data.
“It allows us to track expenditure on individual girls’ entitlements and ensure that all items reach their designated target whilst following up on any irregularities – we can be certain that any money sent in the field is used for its appropriate purposes,” said Dan Luton, Camfed’s programme manager for IT and data analysis.
The GSMA's full report can be downloaded here.