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Wanted: More women in ICT

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Wanted: More women in ICT

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MORE FEMALE INVOLVEMENT is needed to end the male domination in information and communication technology (ICT).

Barbados ICT Professionals’ Association (BIPA) president Philip Lewis expressed that view last week as he reported on a recent panel discussion on Women In ICT.

Panellists included Scotiabank human resources director Carol Edey, Margaret Leon, of the Data Processing Department, Andrea Bryan, of Professional Development Services Inc., and Ashell Forde, of the Telecommunications Unit.

The event was held as part of celebrations for the United Nations International Telecommunication Union’s Girls In ICT Day.

Lewis explained that “International Girls In ICT Day is an initiative aimed to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs”.

Lewis told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that the discussion “highlighted that the trends seen internationally also hold true in Barbados, in both the private and public sector”.

“The issue is three-fold: girls in schools and universities not studying the foundational [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)] subjects required for a career in ICT . . . although some ICT fields such as software programming, web design, notably fall outside of this mould.

“Two, even with a firm schooling in STEM subjects, girls and young women seem not to want a career in ICT, and three, even with a firm schooling in STEM subjects and a preference for a career in ICT, there are real restrictions to their full participation, that is, across all areas and at all levels, in a male-dominated industry.”

Lewis said there were several reasons more women were not involved in ICT. These included poor working conditions (low salaries and pay inequality, long hours, few advancement opportunities), work-life balance issues (family time, child rearing commitments, travel), and office culture and biases (sexism).

He noted that panellists gave examples of employers as well as family and friends discouraging them from pursuing an ICT career.

“The end result is clearly seen in that membership of the Barbados ICT Professionals’ Association is predominantly male and there are notably very few female [chief information officers] in Barbados,” he said.

“ICT is a relatively new industry but is the fastest growing one. It is also an enabler for all industries and sectors, for increasing productivity and realising efficiencies. Therefore, it is imperative that Barbados overcomes the cultural biases and encourages girls in ICT.”

And while he acknowledged that many of the issues preventing more women from getting involved in ICT existed in all sectors, “the statistics reflect that the gender imbalance in ICT no longer exists in other service sectors (doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, human resources)”. (SC)