95% of girls like technology but only 9% want a career in IT

CompTIA's Nancy Hammervik on what we can do to help grow the industry
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CompTIA's senior VP for industry relations, Nancy Hammervik, gave a talk at the PCR Woman of the Year event last week - here's the speech in full.

Women in IT is not just a women’s issue. It’s an IT industry issue - an IT workforce issue - and with men holding the great majority of management positions in this industry, it is critical we have their support and awareness. 

Supporting women entering and working in the IT industry has been a passion of mine for many years and I applaud PCR for calling attention to the great accomplishments of so many women in the UK IT industry. It is all about awareness and inspiration - and this initiative and event, no doubt, will have a lasting impression and impact on many. 

Today we are celebrating not just one exceptional winner, but a whole industry of extraordinary women, who have shown in no uncertain terms just what they can bring to the party!

CompTIA, a not for profit trade association, is the global voice of the IT industry. We stand for education, training, advocacy and philanthropy for and by the IT industry. We are dedicated to the advancement of the industry and the health of the IT workforce.

With women representing just over half of the population, and the slight majority of university graduates, it is critical we leverage this powerful demographic to contribute and grow our industry.

CompTIA feels so strongly about it we created an Advancing Women in IT community in the states that has more than 700 members (men and women) and works hard at initiatives that will drive women to and support them in the IT industry. 

Several of our UK members, some of which are amongst PCR’s Top 50 Women in Tech, have been working with us to expand the community into the UK. The Advancing Women in IT community has created an initiative called Dream IT that arms both men and women with the materials and resources needed to go out into their communities and schools and speak directly with girls and women about careers in IT.

This profile-raising is absolutely key to the success of our mission. It is vital that those who have achieved great things in the industry can use their success as an example to others.

Last year, CompTIA conducted a research study on Youth and IT. We queried more than 1,000 teens and young adults in North America. Let me share some interesting facts with you.

When asked if they like or love technology – 95 per cent of the girls said YES!

When asked if they have ever helped a family member or friend with a technical issue, 92 per cent said YES!

When asked if they might be interested in a career in IT, only 9 per cent said yes.

38 per cent said probably not and 53 per cent said definitely not.

When asked about perceptions of jobs in IT the majority of girls shared “it’s boring, it’s difficult and complicated, it requires good math and science skills, it’s for nerds and geeks," but the number one barrier is that 77 per cent shared they just hadn’t thought about it and didn’t know anyone who worked in the IT industry. And that is where all of us come into play. 

We have a responsibility to share with the next generation - our children, our family’s children, our neighbour’s children and our community’s children that we work in IT - we have great jobs, exciting jobs - where we are always learning, sometime traveling, improving businesses, even improving qualities of life. Jobs that are fulfilling typically pay well and are always in demand. 

IT is not just about coding and programming. It is about project management, digital marketing, graphic design, videography, gaming, apps and more.

There is a lot of good work being done to support women in IT, but much work is still to be done. Here are three sobering statistics:

  • In the UK, women make up 47 per cent of the working population, yet only 14 per cent of them work in IT
  • A male graduate can expect to earn 20 per cent more than a female graduate 
  • A woman working full time from age 18 to 60 will, on average, earn £361,000 less than a man in his career

Now, contrast that with the documented value that women bring to business, and things start to look distinctly out of kilter. For example:

  • Companies across all sectors with the most women on their boards of directors significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation
  • This outperformance has been measured at 41 per cent in terms of return on equity and 56 per cent in terms of operating results
  • Leeds University Business School reports that having at least one female director cuts a company’s chance of going bust by about 20 per cent!

So I think if you suggested that these figures showed both under-representation and undervaluation, there isn't a woman or man who could realistically disagree.

But today, it's about redressing the balance. It's about recognising what the successful women of the present are capable of building for the future. It is about celebrating the mould breakers, the successful against some odds.

It’s about learning from the best in the business, making new connections, and meeting others – men and women alike - who can help women to drive and champion change in this industry.

To that end, we would like to invite those who wish to join the Advancing Women in IT community to meet and work with us immediately following this event.

Finally, let me just say that I'm deeply grateful to PCR for their part in bringing women's achievements so effectively to the attention of the IT community, both through their original Top 50 Women In Tech programme and, of course, through today's event. I ask all of the nominees to leverage the honour that was given to you and use it. 

Do not be humble, do not be shy. Share the accomplishment of being among the Top 50 Women in Tech in your email signature, on your linked in profile and Facebook page and tweet it. Update your CV and add it to your business card. You have earned it, deserve to build your personal brand - and you can inspire others by simply sharing it. 

And to the winner, please use this great honour to be our ambassador, to be a speaker and to represent all successful women in IT and encourage and inspire others to follow your example. 

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