Immediate and long term actions can tackle lack of women in tech sector, says Asystec’s Byrne

Sophia Byrne, Asystec

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10 September 2014 | 0

I joined Asystec in January 2012 after building up 20 years of experience in IT international channel management, product management and strategic business development across businesses here in Europe and the US.

Throughout that time, it has been entirely obvious that there was action required to tackle the lack of a female presence in the IT industry. It is a subject which is often brought up when people discuss the changing face of the technology industry and it is a complex issue that requires detailed attention.

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The first thing I would say is that this is not an Irish problem exclusively, it is global. Having been in the industry, and in senior management roles, for two decades and more you could not help but notice it everywhere.

I have worked in a very male-dominated industry across the board during that time, even in North America. To give you an example, one sales team I was part of in the US had 42 account managers, and of that number only two were women. The energy in the IT industry can be quite challenging for a female to work in when faced with those kind of figures.

Coming back to Ireland a few years ago, I was not surprised to see it is a mirror of what is going on in the rest of the world. However, there has also been a noticeable trend in the past few years where senior business figures have become involved in initiatives to try and make some positive steps forward in terms of attracting more young women in particular towards IT.

You only have to look at it@Cork, an organisation which is doing some excellent work with a specific program for women in technology.

Overall, there are not enough skilled people in the IT area as it is. The percentage of women is so small in the IT Industry, that you do not have to be a genius to realise that if you increase the number of women coming into the area that skills gap shortens, which is why initiatives like the one taking place in Cork are so important.

The second big area which needs focus is the lack of visibility of women in technology. Where you have opportunities for women to speak, whether it is at a conference or in a print article, you will find that a lot the time, they will seek out a male member of management to take it on instead. There are some brilliant women out there bucking that trend but they are often seen as a novelty.

“One sales team in the US had 42 account managers, and of that number only two were women. The energy in the IT industry can be quite challenging for a female to work in when faced with those kind of figures.”

There is a need for female tech influencers out there to promote the role of women in the industry. Especially for younger women, if they do not see those examples and know that it is an industry in which they can flourish, that is something which can be damaging in the long term. There is much focus around the uptake of STEM subjects for female students however, equally if not more important, is the understanding of the opportunity and return on this decision especially concerning life choices including ability to travel within global IT companies, low risk of unemployment, higher salaries comparative to other industries for similar roles as well as method of working flexibility.

In the immediate term, companies can address the issue of bringing more women into the IT sector by reviewing the work/life balance available within these roles. Examine what type of flexibility there is within those companies to enable women to manage families as well as doing their jobs.

From my perspective, I am given a lot of ownership and freedom within my role and I think that is something at which women excel — delivering when they are empowered. Old methods of micro-management no longer work and if you go to San Francisco, it is certainly not like that and has not been for some time. That is a location where we are taking a lot of business lessons from at present, and this is perhaps one of the most valuable ones around.

 

 

Sophia Byrne is senior enterprise account manager with Asystec.

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