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Pay gap, lack of role models to blame for ICT gender imbalance: EOWA

The pay gap between women and men in IT and the lack of senior female role models are the main reasons why young women are not taking up a career in ICT, according to Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).

Speaking ahead of an address to the VMWare Women in IT event in Sydney today, EOWA director Helen Conway used the research from the 2012 Remuneration Survey conducted by the Australian Computer Society to show how serious an issue the gender pay gap is in the industry. She said the research found that men in ICT earn, on average, 9.8 per cent more than women, even though women entering the industry start on comparable or slightly higher salaries.

With not enough women entering the industry, Conway said this has resulted in a lack of senior role models for young women to look up to, which further contributes to the problem of young women not thinking of IT as a suitable career choice.

"Male dominated industries are off-putting to women -- when women don't see senior female role models and examples, they fall back on traditional jobs." She said.

"Australia has a very segregated occupational structure. Mining and ICT are not repelling women -- far from it, many companies have active recruiting campaigns to find women."

Conway urged for more organisations in the industry to get involved in high school programs that educate young women about diverse IT career options and provide examples of senior women who have built successful and rewarding careers.

"Industries such as mining and ICT have seen the necessary talent pools of women are not there, and we see best practice among them where they are going to the high schools, which is where that pipeline starts,'' Conway said.

"Some of the mining companies are showcasing their women, in films, and storytelling is a powerful tool.''

According to EOWA's snapshot of 12 ICT companies, about one-third of companies are involved in high school and tertiary programs, and have set targets for recruitment of women by using social media and industry networks. About a quarter of companies' CEO are involved in gender diversity initiatives.

Offering flexibility through remote work and mentoring programs for women who are starting out in their careers are the most common gender diversity initiatives across the companies, according to EOWA.

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