Women and ICT – Capturing the Opportunities of the Digital Age
Achieving gender diversity in the ICT profession
Australia, 01 December 2015: The ACS – the Professional Association for Australia’s ICT Sector – is today launching a new report, The Promise of Diversity - Gender Equality in the ICT Profession, outlining a series of recommendations to increase the participation of women in the ICT profession.
The Report finds that, at a time when Australia is facing a serious shortage of skilled ICT professionals, women represent only 28 per cent of the ICT workforce compared to 43 per cent in the wider professional workforce. This underutilisation of human capital in ICT looms as a major constraint on Australia’s national growth.
The Report examines the entire life cycle of female participation in ICT. It focusses on three key areas that must be addressed if we are to achieve greater gender equity in ICT. These areas are:
- Female participation in the workforce
- Females and the school education sector
- Females and the vocational and higher education sectors
The Report notes that addressing the barriers will require a mix of short and long-term initiatives, as well as genuine commitment by employers, educators and governments to tackling the issues.
The ACS argues there needs to be a fundamental and urgent change to the cultural mindset and attitudes to women in the workforce. This requires genuine, committed, outcome-focused leadership.
The Report also notes that changes are required in our education system. The ACS recommends initiatives aimed at improving the self-confidence of girls in their own abilities in maths and science, creating a school environment which actively encourages girls to pursue a digital career, introducing a mandatory Digital Technologies Curriculum, and developing a marketing program aimed at changing perceptions of what a digital career can offer.
In launching the Report, ACS President, Brenda Aynsley OAM, said Australia must completely rethink the way our current workforce, school education sector, and vocational and higher education systems operate in relation to boosting female participation in ICT.
“It’s clear that, in Australia, women are significantly underrepresented in the critical ICT profession. We must urgently address the ongoing gender imbalance in the workforce. If we get it right there will be a substantial economic dividend for our nation.”
Research by the Grattan Institute suggests that if Australia was to lift its female labour participation rate by six per cent to be roughly comparable to Canada, our GDP would be $25 billion higher. Analysis by Goldman Sachs suggests that closing the equity gap could boost the level of Australian GDP by 11 per cent.
Ms Aynsley continued: “We must also address and repair elements of the education supply chain to encourage more female students to pursue a career in the digital space. The clear message from our research is that by the time girls reach 15, a large proportion have either already dismissed or not even considered the option of a career in ICT.
“We need to market far better to young female students. This must include providing them with accurate and contemporary advice on the jobs of the future and the importance of digital skills in that future. We also need the ICT profession to work closely with teachers, parents and career advisors, the key influencers of student career choices. And we need to encourage passionate, successful ICT female role models to be ambassadors for our profession and to inspire our next generation of ICT female professionals,” Ms Aynsley said.
The ACS is launching the report, The Promise of Diversity - Gender Equality in the ICT Profession, with the Assistant Minister for Science, the Hon. Karen Andrews MP, and the CIO of Tabcorp, Kim Wenn, at an event at the National Press Club, on Tuesday December 1 at 12:30 pm.
The paper can be found online via: http://bit.ly/promiseofdiversity
Louise Proctor, Launch Group, 0452 574 244
About the ACS
The ACS is the professional association for Australia's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Over 20,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community. The ACS exists to create the environment and provide the opportunities for members and partners to succeed. The ACS strives for ICT professionals to be recognised as drivers of innovation in our society, relevant across all sectors, and to promote the formulation of effective policies on ICT and related matters. Visit www.acs.org.au for more information.
Additional statistics from the ACS’ Digital Pulse report released in 2015
- ACS Digital Pulse report found the pay gap results for ICT workers was around 20%
- Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would boost the level of Australian GDP by 11% 
- Female participation in the national workforce is around 45%, but in the ICT profession it is only 28%
- In terms of representation in management, whilst women are 48.5% of the workforce they only represent 35.9% of management roles
- Only 4.6% of girls contemplate pursuing careers in engineering or computing compared to 18.2% of boys. In Australia, the numbers are 2.8% and 16.3% respectively.
- Since 2001 male IT undergraduate enrolments have declined by almost 30% (from 27,034 in 2013 to 19,023 in 2013), whilst female enrolments have declined by 65% from 8,627 to 3,032)
 Toohey, T., Colosimo, D.., Boak, A., Goldman Sachs, J B Were Investment Research, 2009, Australia’s Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation - http://www.asx.com.au/documents/about/gsjbw_economic_case_for_increasing_female_participation.pdf
 OECD, 2012, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education – Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence - http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-gender-eng.pdf - page 114
 Australian Government, Department of Education, u-Cube 2015