With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, it is clear that most jobs of the future will require ICT and digital skills
If we do not address the stereo types that continue to reflect the desires and perspectives of men women will be left out of this Revolution
It’s starts at home – when troubleshooting for technical devices is required, the boy child is the one highly likely to be asked to assist – so the boy ceases to be the beneficiary or consumer of ICT but a creator and fixer – this builds the confidence to belong
ITU has a campaign called global international ICT for Girls Day promoting the importance of ICT skills amongst girls – thereby facilitating the removal of the negative stereo typing
Companies are partnering with governments to encourage Coding for girls – we are involved in similar programmes in – Vodafone has launched such a programme and we are studying the programme to see how to plug this into some of our education initiatives.
Growing the ICT skills from school level helps to serve as a pipeline for senior women in ICT. However, few women in STEM make it to leadership positions
Unlike the government, the private sector has a low number of women in boardrooms as CEOs of JSE-listed companies. That struggle still has so far to go.
The sad thing is that we had gone a long way, even ensuring the number of women in the boardroom increases.
In Women ICT skills and management/leadership roles. The depressing point of departure here is that global reports indicate that there are 130m girls out of school – so this defeats the purpose of positioning education as a tool to liberate the mind and for socioeconomic development
This is a gloomy picture for gender diversity in general.
However, all is not lost – the noises made by all of us to attain SDG goal 5 are creating awareness and accelerating the global movement against poverty and discrimination
There are certain factors that we cannot neglect such as societal stereotypes that discourage women from going into ICTs.
The pervasive negative stereo typing that promotes girls as intellectually inferior to their male counterparts – so there are less girls in the STEM subjects.
As a result girls do not take hard subjects, if they do, the indication is that there is a higher rate of drop outs in natural sciences for girls than for boys.
In the work front the battle is even intense because the societal stereotypes are replicated. There are lesser women in management and leadership positions globally, but the percentage is even higher in the ICT environment.
Gender stereo typing stands out on the barriers because it works on the self-esteem and confidence – Men are viewed as psychologically and biologically wired to belong in the ICT work environment and their direct and firm approach is tolerated by women and men alike.
The social construct that ICT environment is a male domain is incompatible with the social construction of female identity – so a woman is misplaced in the ICT space – she is not supposed to be there especially in leadership or technical.
In the end there are more men and they shape the ethos, they shape the culture and they shape the tone of discourse.
Research states that women find the ICT work environment chilly and hostile – so they do not enter or they leave.
The other barriers to work success in ICT are –
– Family responsibility – starting families and getting disconnected is an antithesis to sustainable retention of women
– Work flexibility – working hours
– Lack of confidence
So, how do we go about dismantling these barriers in the ICT sector and collaborations is required?
The answer is, employers must have policies and practices that promote gender diversity – addressing stereotyping and removing unconscious bias.
Families and partners have to provide moral and psychological support to dates long hours and family responsibility.
Government and regulators should legislate and monitor progress and hold companies accountable.
Educators have to be empowered to understand ICTs and to deliver digital content.
Women in general – those in leadership must be brave tackle the stereotypes head on – to support men through awareness to be sensitive – women must stop resisting women leaders and women in leadership need to nurture those in lower position.