As many people in the sector know, I do the rounds of conferences and events. There's lots to get out of them too. New ideas and the chance to meet lots of people in the same place for once!
Look around most ICT conferences, particularly in social housing and they are most often still dominated by white males. While there are some really notable female ICT and system managers, they are still, in the 21st century a real rarity. Another example is the Southern IT Housing user forum , many men currently attending, but just two women.
Notably, one housing group local to me that I work with, Torus, has a brilliant female director of IT and transformation and yet another, director of delivery and transformation. Excellent folk to work with and I learn something every time I work with Debbie and Liz.
West Kent's head of ICT is one such, the super Claire Davidson. Witty, really sharp and managing to generally have equal or more women than men in her team, to deliver solutions better. Claire could be our Martha Lane Fox, or Sue Black without the red 'barnet'. She's bloody good, I know that, a ray of IT sunshine each time I see her, and gets along to the SIT forum. The other female attendee ticks the 'Cymru' box too I would have thought. I won't even consider if more regional UK accents would improve the quality of ICT. Maybe one for another blogpost, that one!
Its brilliant sometimes to work with organisations where there is a more equal gender balance, in systems and ICT. Torus Housing Group in NW England, again being a case in point. Inspirational working with a great mix of genders, all with the brilliant skills and attitude, makes for a better team, who can help see the world from unique perspectives.
A recent EU report earlier in 2016, showed that just 29 of every 1000 women with a degree graduate in ICT, compared with 95 in every 1000 for men. (see https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/women-ict ). Of those 29, only four went on to work in the ICT sector. It makes hardly any sense, when the same research shows that tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% bigger return on investment. Might that mean that social housing could potentially deliver a third more tech innovation, if it aimed for the same?
I remember my first female manager, back in ICT retail in the 80's. Sadly, I have lost touch with Joan, but she was a breath of fresh air to work with. Encouraged and motivated staff, a fair boss and great fun. She could sink the pints of real ale as fast as everyone else on the team too. She got more from us all and set me off on the path, to what I do now.
Have we got to many geeks in the sector?
Is that what's putting most of the females off?
I think more senior ICT role models, like Claire would go a long way to inspiring students, right back at the GCSE stages. Getting them into work placements, and keeping them there, then does rely on the culture being right. Social housing should be better overall at such things, you would think. There is a solid link between responsible corporate culture, efficiency, profitability and ROI.
Females bring a new perspective on ICT, product development and business strategy. As Claire told me, "I recruit the best people, as I want the best team". Wouldn't you want the best team too?
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Joe Jackson - Its different for girls.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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