Women still a minority in ICT industry

Low number of women and mature age workers hampering the supply of IT skills

Women make up just 20 per cent of the ICT workforce, compared to 45 per cent in all occupations, according to a study by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA).

This low number of women in the industry is hampering the supply of skills to the industry, the ICT Workforce Study 2013 found.

"We need role models and we also need to support employers, particularly in the SME sector, to examine the barriers to entry. Kids make career decisions in high school and we think this is a critical area,” Adam Redman, head, policy and external affairs, told CIO.

The small number of mature age workers in the ICT industry is also hindering the supply of jobs, with 67.8 per cent of workers aged 25 to 44, compared to 45.5 per cent for all other occupations, according to the report.

Report: The 457 visa: what you need to know

It forecast the ICT workforce will increase by 7.1 per cent (33,200 workers) between 2012 and 2017.

“Initiatives to attract and retain these groups of workers are important if we are to meet the demand for skilled ICT workers,” the study stated.

The report was developed following consultation with the ICT industry and education stakeholders.

It said the number of 457 visas being used in the industry jumped 74 per cent from 2009-10 to 2011-12 to 9271 visas granted. In 2011-12, 13.5 per cent of 457 visas were granted to ICT professionals.

The visas have come into the spotlight recently with the federal government announcing a crackdown on the use of the visas in February this year due to rorting, with the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard targeting the IT industry as the largest sector that employs overseas workers.

A 457 visa is a temporary business (long stay) subclass visa that allows businesses to sponsor a skilled worker to fill a job vacancy which cannot be filled with local workers. The visa is valid for up to four years, with secondary visas able to be given to an applicant’s family members as well.

“It is likely that temporary and permanent skilled migration will continue to play a significant role in meeting demand for ICT professionals in coming years.” the report said.

“In this context, efforts to improve the work readiness and ongoing employment prospects of domestic ICT workers are particularly important.”

Redman said the ASC believes there is a role for 457 visas in the industry, but only as a short-term solution.

“We do not support abuse of 457s in any sector and we would name and shame if we were aware of abuse. Without tackling the issues in the report, the Australian ICT reliance on 457 will increase,” he said.

The report has focused on digital education at the school level, pushing for more inclusion of digital subjects at schools as a core component of education. This should focus on technology and computer science subjects, the AWPA recommended.

The AWPA has made several other recommendations. They include “targeted career promotion products” to help change the negative perceptions around the ICT industry, such as IT jobs being boring, repetitive and isolating; and a more strategic approach for ICT graduates and training, with employers finding graduates don’t possess the skills required to contribute in the workplace.

The AWPA also recommended an intensive skills conversion program targeted towards graduates to increase the number of workers in the industry.

Finally, it is supporting the Australian Computer Society’s professional development program, which has been designed to build capability in the ICT workforce.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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We'll base level IT starts on service desk and women tend to be to strong willed to put up with people asking you for help but treating you like your dirt at the same time. I for one am sick of people getting their rage on at me when the problem is not their system but their own lack of understanding and unrealistic expectations. Additionally Women tend to be better at creating pulling on their artistic side, ICT tends to be heavy on the support focus which is more paint by numbers troubleshooting with no creative thinking involved. I don't know a single woman who can follow even a recipe to the letter because they like to put their own personal flair in to make it their own unique twist. To put simply Women's brains tend to be wired in such a way that IT is boring as bat **** to them. Still the ones that are in the industry seem to have the best customer service, I think its because they care more about peoples feelings then men do.



I am sick of these surveys that say there is an IT skills shortage. It is rubish. There are current about 4 or 5 IT workers for every position in this city. I suspect the survey is based on Seek advertisement and the like. (Only about 1 advert. in 10 is genuine.) Any person studying IT at the moment is in for a unpleasant shock if they try and convert their study into a paying job.



Why are we always pushing this as if ICT is a biased industry? According to many studies, we need more men in primary teaching, which is predominantly women but there does not seem to be a similar push to make that happen. Not every role can play to the strengths of both men and women; there will always be a bias. I don't find the industry at all anti-women, in general technical fields tend to be dominated by men and caring or social fields tend to be dominated by women.

indutry observer


The percentage of female ICT professionals is actually higher than the equivalent percentage in all of the other learned professions (law, accounting, engineering etc), other than medicine.
It is not the ICT industry that is biased, it is society..

Solution Architect


Perhaps women are not generally interested in the field? It does happen! Those women I have worked with (20 years in mission critical IT), probably 20% have been in technical roles, the rest have been project or people managers.

To put it in perspective, some of the female techs I have worked with have been among the best technical minds I have come across. So where there is interest, there is no lack of ability.

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