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We need a better gender balance in IT

Businesses can become stilted if everyone has the same background. A mixture of skills is needed

One of my concerns as the CEO of a technology company is the shortage of women in our industry. In any sector diversity enables businesses to thrive. Yet recent predictions from Deloitte suggest that by the end of this year only 25% of IT workers in developed countries will be women. This is worrying news for our industry. I strongly believe that gender balance isn’t a ‘nice to have’ it’s a must have.

It is only through having a diverse workforce that companies will continue to innovate and grow. Businesses can become stilted and stifled if everyone comes from the same background. A mixture of complementary skills is needed to produce interesting results.

In addition, women make up a large proportion of our customers so neglecting the value of women in the workforce could be a costly mistake.

I believe it’s the responsibility of all stakeholders in the IT industry to address this shortage. We must increase the skills pipeline by encouraging girls to take up STEM subjects at school and university. We need to find, encourage and give a voice to female role models at every level of tech organisations, to provide inspiration for younger (and older) women. For example, as part of my work for Engineers Ireland I recently completed a tour of the country, speaking with young schoolgirls about the exciting career opportunities engineering can bring.

There is still some stigma about roles in IT and the type of women who might pursue them. Jobs in the sector can be seen as extremely technical, ‘nerdy’ or even plain dull – but this simply isn’t true. Technology touches every aspect of our lives and is becoming increasingly human-centric. Careers in tech require multiple skills to develop new approaches to tackle the world’s most pressing issues. We must combat these prejudices and stereotypes.

One approach is to change the media image of the IT industry. It’s significant that there are no positive role models for female scientists and engineers in popular TV shows. Amy Farrah-Fowler on The Big Bang Theory is the most prominent female scientist, but she isn’t an inspiring role model for girls considering a career in the field. Nor is Darlene, one of the society hackers in the tech TV phenomenon Mr Robot. Think of what The Good Wife has done for law; a programme featuring a technology company with a strong female lead would be a fantastic way to encourage girls to consider a career in this area while showcasing how interesting tech jobs can be.

Increasing the number of women in IT is also about supporting those already in this sector throughout their career life cycle. Women’s networks have a large role to play here. At Fujitsu we have a fantastic women’s network, which I am proud to have led as executive representative. Networks offer women from across our organisation the opportunity to discuss the challenges we face. I have been fortunate throughout my career to have been encouraged and well-supported by various people. We need to make sure that this is the norm in technology companies.

It is very disappointing that during my career we haven’t made more progress in encouraging women in IT. Technology is an incredibly exciting sector, as well as an important one for the UK economy. A crucial part of my role here at Fujitsu is to combat this imbalance and make changes for the future. Because this shortage of women is something that no technology CEO can afford to ignore.

Regina Moran is CEO of Fujitsu UK & Ireland