The 8th of March each year celebrates International Women’s Day. This is not a date which sticks in everyone’s memory as easily as Valentines or Christmas. Yet this day provides a chance to examine the achievements of women within IT careers.
The national holiday began historically in America in 1909 following political declarations. Through these early years, the idea spread across the world, leading to various demonstrations over equal rights, sex discrimination and the right to vote. The day became known as the International Women’s Day by 1917.
It can be argued that the rights of women and their position in the workplace have advanced since 1909. Laws now prevent women from being discriminated against for a variety of jobs. This does not stop industries from being male dominated, particularly true for the technology sector. In the UK, only 17% of IT jobs are held by women. The discrimination against working in computing may be coming from women themselves, with only 1 in 11 students being female in the average A-Level IT class.
A report by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) published on International Women’s Day this year found the UK to be 18th out of 27 countries for women’s job security and pay. The UK is trailing behind other developed countries including Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Yong Jing Teow, author of the report, comments “It is worrying that the UK’s progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled.”
In the US, there is evidence of a recovery from the job losses experienced by women. Analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showed women gaining back approximately three-quarters of the employment they lost during the recession. Data in December 2007 highlighted a gap of 3.4 million jobs between men and women. February 2013 showed this gap to have closed to 1.8 million jobs.
Research from the Office for National Statistics highlights equal pay in the UK still has not been achieved in all areas.
GMB’s inclusion & diversity officer, Kamaljeet Jandu, announced at the union’s equality conference held in Leeds; “In most occupations, women are paid less than men for doing the same type of job. It is a scandal in this day and age. . . Chief Executives and other senior managers have a staggering income difference of £52,795.”
With pensions women and men are moving towards equality. By 2020, state pensions will not be available to both men and women until age 66. The incremental increase in pension age from 60 for women began in 2010. A Study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown a rise of 7.3% in the employment rates of women over 60. This increase is also reflected in men also working longer. Analysts theorise this could be to so couples can retire together or for the man to make up for the pension the wife can no longer receive at age 60.
For women wanting to work in IT jobs in the UK, the lack of female technology role models may be affecting the choices they make for their own careers.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive since 2008, releases her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” in the week following International Women’s Day. The book is aimed at empowering women in their careers with advice from her own experiences.
Sandberg has written “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world . . . The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve.”
Sandberg references a report by Catalyst.org in her book which highlights there being only 21 female CEO’s in the Fortune 500, with herself among the 14% of women holding executive officer positions and the 16% holding board of director seats.
International Women’s Day 2013 highlighted a variety of areas affecting women’s lives. Improvements within the workplace are clearly still needed. If more time was spent celebrating the women with successful careers, including in the IT sector, their achievements could be inspirational to those in schools still choosing their career path.