Some of the most prominent women working in IT today have come together to form the Victorian Women in ICT Network.
To be launched next Thursday by the Victorian Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Marsha Thomson, the network aims to address the shortage of women working in IT.
Network members include Victorian government CIO Jane Treadwell, Novell Asia Pacific president Rhonda O'Donnell, ANZ Bank's technology division executive manager Debra Auty and Monash University associate professor for the School of Information Management and Systems Dr Julie Fisher.
Supported by an $82,000 grant from the Bracks government, the network has three objectives: to encourage women to enter the ICT industry, to retain women in the industry, and to enable these women to achieve their full potential throughout their careers.
A range of initiatives will be implemented including mentoring programs, scholarships, education forums, professional development workshops, a business network directory, awards program, networking events, marketing programs and promotion of career opportunities.
"Despite 70 percent growth of ICT jobs since 1996 - with Victoria having the second largest share of ICT roles in Australia - there continues to be a very low participation [rate] by women in the ICT industry. The percentage of technology graduates who are women has also been in decline since 1989," Thomson said.
Recent ABS statistics show that of the 335,200 ICT workers in 2003/04, only 16 percent were women, representing 1 percent of the total employed women in the population.
"I am keen to reverse this trend in order to capitalize on the value women can bring to the ICT industry," Thomson said.
Attitudinal research of current and graduating Year 12 students in 2004, undertaken by Multimedia Victoria, revealed that only 3 percent of young women surveyed showed a strong interest in pursuing ICT as a career.
It showed the greatest barrier to a career in ICT for girls was a lack of knowledge about the different types of ICT jobs and courses available. The other main inhibitor was the perception that ICT was boring and involved 'sitting in front of a computer all day'.
"It is these stereotypes the Network aims to address by creating awareness of the diversity of roles in ICT - it's not just traditional ICT roles such as computer programming, but business-based and creative roles such as business analysts, project managers and Web designers," Thomson said.
"In order to address the skills gap in ICT, we are also targeting women from other industries with relevant skills such as strategic and management capabilities, design, communication and marketing experience who may be considering a transition to an ICT career.
"You only have to look at the depth and diversity of experience of the Network's founding board members to demonstrate that a career in ICT can be a very exciting and successful one. They also provide very strong role models for women currently working in ICT."
Board member Debra Auty, head of technology at ANZ Bank, said only one out of 10 applicants for an advertised position in ICT was a woman.
"It is crucial that the best person for the position is selected and with these numbers the odds are against the female candidate. This is the heart of what the Victorian Women in ICT Network aims to address," Auty said.
Other board members include the co-founder of Women are IT Network Jenny Barbour, Swinburne University Faculty of ICT lecturer Catherine Lang, Web development consultancy Morpheum general manager Nicole Dixon and IT governance specialist Chris Gilllies.
Initial programs to be implemented in the coming months include an ANZ Bank scholarship program, a Novell 12-month international professional placement, a breakfast seminar on work/life balance and the Go Girl Go IT Careers Showcase.
Five levels of membership will be available, including student (free), individual ($120), Micro business ($220 for two memberships), SME ($300) and Corporate ($1000).
Membership is open to all women in ICT simply by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org