Teenage girls “switching off” to a career in technology is part of a broader societal issue and preconceived notions of what are female and male jobs.
This is the view of Amazon’s global CTO Werner Vogels and Australia and New Zealand MD Paul Migliorini, who told CIO Australia that this a challenge that needs to be addressed if Australia is to effectively deal with its ongoing tech skills shortage.
The technology industry’s huge gender gap was on show during the AWS Summit in Sydney last week. The more than 10,000-strong crowd attending the two day conference was overwhelmingly young and middle-aged men. Data from the United States suggests that the male to female ratio is getting worse.
“Different countries see things from different perspectives,” Werner told CIO Australia. “I was recently in Thailand where we met with top leaders in the industry and it turns out all the CEOs at [Thai] banks are female. Meeting with the CEOs of the top 50 companies [in Thailand], there’s a significant number of leaders there that are female.
“I was surprised and I asked about it – they say that it has to do with the fact that help in the house is readily available,” said Vogels. He was referring to workers who are employed to help with domestic duties in and around the house.
“So if you do have kids, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your career; or you don’t have to ‘double up’ during your career. We see in a number of countries where this is much more accepted.”
AWS’ Migliorini said diversity is one of the biggest opportunities the industry has to take Australia forward to create broader cognitive diversity across the community.
“As we are thinking about building that next generation of [software] builders, today we’ve got a skills shortage. If we are really going to affect it tomorrow, we’ve got to broaden the talent pools to the broadest possible context that we can,” he said.
“We have a hypothesis at the moment that part of [the reason for the gender gap] is supply and part of it is inclusion in the environments we are creating to enable everyone to engage well in the context of a career in tech.”
He cited AWS Educate for Students, which began last year, as a vehicle to help engage and encourage a broader range of young people to pursue careers in IT.
“We have five high schools, two of which are dedicated female-only schools – and so we are running the students through a full day of exercises, design thinking, hack, technical deep dives and those sorts of things. Part of it is doing our part and trying to inspire these people – male and female – to get excited about a career in tech.”
“But also it’s about trying to learn at what point, some of these teenage girls particularly, switch off to a career in tech ... the data tells us that this happens in their mid-teens and that's part of the challenge that we need to address."
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