A leading IT expert is calling for more women to join the profession and more companies to 'actively' attract female applicants. Tracy Pound from Midlands-based Maximity, a recent finalist in an industry Woman of the Year awards, feels a lot is said about the lack of women in IT, but not enough is done. As a director of international, US-based IT trade association CompTIA she has set out to help spearhead an 'Advancing women in IT' awareness drive.
Latest Government-backed research has shown that, out of the 1.1million IT specialists in the UK, women represent less than 16 per cent. The numbers also appear to be on the decline. From an already low base, female representation within the IT sector has declined over the past 10 years. Tracy says: "I've worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and want to encourage more people, especially women, to try tech roles.
There's a lot of press around the lack of women in tech industries, the lack of women in senior roles and the lack of girls taking relevant subjects at school, but no-one seems to want to step up and take action." Tracy began her career as a programmer in 1984 and was appointed as a manager at a small software company at 21. She was then headhunted by a division of BTR Industries where she was its first female manager, and the youngest at 27 to head up its UK IT operations, managing an annual CapEx budget of £8 million. In 2000 she launched her own IT company Maximity as a way to continue working in IT with the flexibility needed for a young family.
Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of CompTIA, added: "Tracy has been one of the biggest names in the UK channel and has been tremendously active within our membership for nearly ten years. She is a true role model for us all."
"IT is an industry that is crying out for the attributes women possess," Tracy says. "It needs people who are decisive, have good interpersonal skills and work well in teams.
The technical skills can be taught but, unfortunately, changing mind-sets is not so easy. I don't know why but there seems to be a general attitude that IT roles are more suited to men. I do think part of the problem is image. Employers in IT should start to think about the image they project and how welcoming this is for women. They need to consider how they advertise for jobs, whether they use images that include women on their website and in their literature. They could go and speak at schools and colleges about their business and actively seek to encourage girls to consider IT. I'm looking for the industry to have a fair and balanced approach towards women, which by its nature, involves raising our profile so that we get noticed and not passed by."
She continued: "I've been a programmer; set up and run a help desk. I've installed graphics cards, printers, memory chips. I've punched cables into data cabs and wired RS232 connectors. I've installed Unix from scratch (64 floppy disks), networks, PCs, software and printers. It's immensely rewarding work. For girls out there, this is a call to action; if you're female, at least investigate a career in IT and if you're male and in IT please consider a woman for that next role.
IT is a fast growing industry that's here to stay and will get bigger as tech touches more and more of our lives with social media, the IoT and more automation at work. IT truly is everywhere. There's such a wide range of jobs available, yet I don't know a single female support technician now and it's wrong. I'm not suggesting that companies should recruit or promote women for the sake of it, I'm simply advocating that companies should actively seek to interview women for tech roles and that women need to start applying for them. For any young girls wondering what options to take, I would say try looking at IT. Opt for work experience in the IT sector or consider some technical training if you're looking for a career change."