Why are there so few women in IT?

29 Jan 2018 Lumina Technologies
Women in IT

We have recently welcomed a new member of our 2nd line support team, Paige Nicklin. We are not only delighted to welcome Paige into the Lumina family, we are also delighted to welcome a woman into such a male-dominated environment.

Paige’s appointment has prompted our MD Richard McBarnet to think about why the appointment of a woman is noteworthy. “Whilst we are excited about a woman coming to work for us, it is actually quite sad that in the 21st century, it is still an unusual enough occurrence to prompt articles like this one.

“The IT field is very stereotyped and mostly that geeky stereotyping is based on fact – The Big Bang Theory has a huge element of truth in it, of men who are happier sitting at home playing online games than meeting for a drink in the pub.

“In the last 10 years we have only had three women put forward for technology positions, which is a tiny percentage. We have been told of the benefits of diversity in the workplace for many years, but our industry continues to be disregarded by 50% of the population, which begs the question, why?

“I think it is a fundamental problem that can only be tackled in primary schools. We need to encourage the education system to provide the right stimulus for girls to become interested in the STEM subjects from a young age, with a particular emphasis on IT, which appears to be less desirable to girls than the other sciences.”

No champions

Paige has always had an interest in IT and was coding HTML websites whilst still at school and built her own PC when she was 18. Whilst she has only been working in IT support for the past three years, she has already pondered the question of why she finds herself the lone woman engineer. She believes the stigma of the stereotypical ‘nerd’ has got a lot to do with it, even though she identifies with a lot of stereotypical traits such as playing games online – she confesses to be a big Pokémon fan.

“I think the main problem is that there are no heroes! There is no movement attracting women in IT, and no champion for the cause.”

And Paige would definitely like to have more female colleagues doing the same job. “I would love to encourage more women to get into IT because I’d love to have some girls in the department! I get on very well with the guys and have never had any trouble fitting in, but it would be nice if I could have a female friend who I could also chat about IT with.”

The IT Crowd stereotype is not necessarily true

Paige also challenges the stereotype of men in the IT industry. She regularly meets up with friends and has other interests, including fish keeping – indeed, before deciding to go into IT, she seriously considered a career as a marine biologist. “I think the stereotype of the ‘nerd’ culture drives people – men and women – away from the industry. I’d like people to see that you don’t need to be a stereotype nerd to get into IT, and that most people who work in the IT sector naturally have hobbies that fall outside of this. At my last place of work, an overwhelming percentage of my department enjoyed football and going to the gym, which I don’t think is usually associated with IT.”

Diversity

Richard McBarnet would love to see more women in IT careers, but isn’t hopeful of major changes happening soon. “Even if we make greater efforts to encourage girls to study technology at school, I do not think I will ever see equal numbers applying for jobs before I retire. As part of Lumina’s CSR policy, I am asked to visit schools to give advice and interview training, but have yet to be asked to do any work around encouraging girls to consider IT as a career option.”

Diversity is a major part of the Lumina ethos, though it is a much broader term than just creating equilibrium between the sexes.

“As Lumina’s USP is people first, technology second, we are keen to fight the ‘IT dark arts’ stereotype popularised by programmes like the IT Crowd, and instead embrace different ways of thinking.

“We run our business on the basis of our value system which is ready to accommodate diversity. We offered Paige the job because her knowledge, experience and attitude, as well as her youthful enthusiasm, are exactly what we were looking for. It is testament to the success of our diversity policy that the only way we have had to put ourselves out in order to accommodate her is that we needed to order a smaller sized uniform!”

Click here to find out more about the members of the Lumina family and find out more about their diverse hobbies and interests.



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