The DTI’s backing for a new working group to look into ways to boost the
number of women in IT is welcome. The knowledge economy is one of the
buzz-phrases of our time and when people talk about knowledge workers, they
usually mean IT workers.
Leaving aside the current downturn, the consensus is that organisations will
continue to experience a shortfall of available talent to fill those knowledge
worker roles. So it clearly makes business sense to select staff from as wide a
group as possible.
It is surprising then to find that the number of women IT staff has actually
been falling. This is despite the fact IT firms are the most likely to be
technologically equipped to encourage flexible and remote working and so enable
women to fit their working lives around childcare responsibilities – although
this is not to say that, in the 21st century, those responsibilities should be
left to women.
In fact, some of the biggest IT firms have pioneered approaches which ought
to make the industry more attractive to anybody who requires flexible hours.
This suggests that there is something off-putting about the image of a
career in IT for many young women. In an age where employers are increasingly
preoccupied with the employer brand as a recruitment and retention strategy,
the IT industry needs to ask itself some serious questions about why it appears
so unattractive to many young women choosing their future careers.
The new Champions Group should play a big part in this. And the decision to
include senior HR professionals in the party reflects the growing recognition
that HR has unique experience and expertise in recruitment and retention. Let
us hope this means the Government is finally catching on to the importance of
HR in building the talent needed for tomorrow’s organisations.
By Noel O’Reilly