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Addressing gender imbalance in the IT industry: Kaylene O’Brien

O’Brien recently won ICT Victorian woman of the year
Kaylene O'Brien

Kaylene O'Brien

To address the gender imbalance in IT, the industry needs to rid its “geeky kind of boy’s job” image and better promote the diversity of IT careers to attract women into the industry, said Kaylene O’Brien, a technology partner at Deloitte Consulting.

O’Brien was recently awarded ICT Victorian women of the year, and was recognised for broadening the professional base of IT across backgrounds, gender and cultures.

According to O’Brien, there is still a gender imbalance in the industry because “we’ve allowed a situation to occur where the image of what an IT careers means is way too narrow and isn’t representative of the breadth of the exciting and interesting sorts of careers”.

People that can be more business focussed in their role, or more creative are often the ones who succeed in an IT career, she said.

“People who do really well in their IT career are often entrepreneurial, they have great communication skills, and they are very people focussed. So the people who are quite successful aren’t that image at all.”

Lack of flexibility is another reason to why women may not be taking up or continuing a career in IT, according to O’Brien. “I also think that there is a role for employers to make sure that they are offering flexible career models,” she said.

“I think for similar reasons to why there is a lack of female representation at senior levels is that there is a lack of flexibility in the career models along the way. There are assumptions about the need for continuous employment. So for women, it disadvantages them when they need to take time out of the workforce…

“I also think that in particular for IT it’s exacerbated because at entry levels the proportion of women are so low as well so it tends to just worsen them the more senior they become around a gender balance issue.”

O’Brien said there’s still a “huge way to go” for the industry to become more gender balanced, but she is seeing a positive response from women in the industry, like herself, who volunteer their time to support and encourage other women to take IT up as a career.

“It’s also been really pleasing to see just how many young women that I work with that have also volunteered lots of their time, particularly around the Go Girl, Go for IT event that was held last month in Victoria” she said.

“There were lots of young volunteering women who were in their studies or recently completed their studies and they’ve seen firsthand when they’ve walked into a lecture theatre and realised that women make up less than 10 per cent of their student co-op.

“[So it’s] the willingness to volunteer their time to change the gender imbalance, to change the perceptions, and to make sure that IT careers is seen as incredibly attractive for women.”

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Gender Equality


When I check google to see if this is an issue in other industries I get the following: "No results found for gender imbalance +nursing site:au.", nor do find any joy substituting for "hopsitality" or aged care etc. I wonder why it's an issue for the IT industry? Surely it's not that males are in the majority that makes it a problem? That would be a misandrist position to take.

To quote another industry in a similar situation to IT: National President of the Public Relations Institute of Australia Nick Turner said any suggestion that corporate affairs teams made up of only women may not be taken as seriously as a male team was “offensive - to females and males”. “And I think it’s 1900s thinking,”.

Quite so.

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