Female top techie numbers finally on the up in Ireland

But the message of the diversity of tech jobs women can go for still needs to get out there

Regina Moran, chief executive of Fujitsu’s Irish operation: “There are no soap operas like CSI for technology roles.”

Regina Moran, chief executive of Fujitsu’s Irish operation: “There are no soap operas like CSI for technology roles.”

 

Where are all the female tech leaders? It’s a question that has focused on the technology sector, an industry that prides itself on innovation, challenging the norms and setting trends. Against this backdrop the boardrooms of the big name tech brands look remarkably similar to the stuffy wood panel affairs in the corporate world.

Things are not as bad as initial impressions may suggest, in Ireland at least. A survey of gender diversity in The Irish Times Top 1000 Companies in Ireland – to be published tomorrow – has found tech companies employ a slightly higher percentage of women in executive management positions, while US multinationals also have a greater diversity than is the norm across Top1000 companies.

Indeed Microsoft, Apple, Citrix, AirBnB, Fujitsu and Facebook, are just some of the Ireland based companies which have women at the helm. Others have female executives in the so-called C-Suite roles, a US term used to refer to senior management positions such as chief executive, chief financial officer and suchlike.

Room for improvement
However, this is not to suggest there is not room for improvement on this island. Consider the role of “chief technology officer” – the gender survey identified that male CTOs outstrip female tech chiefs at a rate of 18:1 in Ireland. And consistently, surveys have shown fewer girls are taking the higher level STEM subjects they need at school to lead them on to the technology courses that would result in such a role. But why?

For Regina Moran, chief executive of Fujitsu’s Irish operation, who has a background in engineering, part of the problem is the “lack of understanding in general about careers in technology”.

“It is such a broad and diverse area with a wide range of options that it can be difficult for parents and teachers to advise their daughters and students. There are no soap operas like CSI for technology roles.”

Making STEM subjects compulsory may be the answer: “It would mean girls could have a real chance of achieving great results and teachers and parents would encourage them to do so”.

Earlier this year it was revealed the renowned University of California, Berkeley changed the name of one of its courses to The Beauty and Joy of Computing – previously known as Introduction to Symbolic Programming. And it has worked – women now out-number men on the course, for the first time since 1993.

But it’s not just about the education system. Industry also has a role to play, says Moran.

More initiatives
“There need to be more initiatives to get students, especially young women, interested in ICT,” she says, noting Fujitsu has been working with students at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Rush, Co Dublin for three years.

“The interest from all students is encouraging, but especially from the girls. It bolsters my belief that girls are drawn to ICT, they just need encouragement.”

Another factor to consider is tech companies don’t just recruit “techies”.

Facebook’s managing director in Ireland, Sonia Flynn, is a languages graduate, and recalls her parents were bemused when she got a job with Google, before her time with the social networking giant. But it hasn’t proven to be a stumbling block.

“You don’t have to have a technical background – there are always different types of roles on offer, in business, marketing, finance, etc. There is a whole spectrum of careers that women can have with a tech company. I’d love to see that message get out there,” she says. And tech companies offer “a tonne of flexibility” says Flynn, which can be family-friendly. “It’s all about results; it’s not about sitting in the office for “face time’”.


Out tomorrow: Top 1,000 companies
The Irish Times Top 1,000 Companies 2014 will be published tomorrow with the newspaper, along with a dedicated website top1000.ie. Featuring an extensive survey of gender diversity amongst the top 1,000 companies in Ireland, it will also reveal the performance of the leading businesses on the island.

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