Companies come together to support women in tech
Women in STEM CWIT is an organisation that focusses on attracting, retaining and promoting women in the technology industry.
What are the aims of CWIT – and what role is it playing with regard to the National ICT plan?
"Our main focus is attracting, retaining and promoting women in the technology industry. CWIT is a group of 17 leading technology companies in Ireland who come together with the shared vision of “connecting and supporting the development of women in the technology industry, now and in the future”. Members include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, LinkedIn, Facebook, Intel, Vodafone, Virgin Media, BT Ireland, Google, Accenture, Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Eir, Ericsson, Hewlett Packard Inc and Twitter.
"The CWIT member companies have a focus on embracing gender diversity in their industry. The collaboration between ibec and the Department of Education is to share best practices with other companies and industries to highlight and promote the excellent work that we do on a daily basis.
"CWIT’s role in the National ICT plan focuses on the inclusion of gender diversity in the ICT skills plan. This is seen as a significant breakthrough in women being valued within the overall talent pool of the ICT workforce in Ireland."
How can we attract more women into tech – what part can role models, influencers, and specifically targeted programmes, play?
"One of CWIT’s key target groups is to approach transition year students and inform them about the benefits and rewards within the technology sector. Teachers and, in particular, parents are key influencers in raising the profile and attracting more women to get involved at a younger age. At CWIT we set up a programme called ‘IT is not just for Geeks’, which gives us a channel to connect with the right audience. CWIT supports visits to local schools, which, this year, reached over 4,000 Transition Year students."
Are there challenges with retaining women who do choose careers in tech? How can these be overcome?
"One of the key activities we focus on is networking events. At these events we get to hear from a cross section within the industry and roles around the key challenges women face within the tech sector. The following are some examples of themes that regularly come up in conversation:
You can’t be what you can’t see –
Unconscious Bias –
Diversity programmes in organisations can really help overcome some key challenges. Having quotas or stats, whereby an organisation needs to meet certain criteria, such as representation of male to female staff, for example.At CWIT, we have also started the conversation and are investigating, as an industry, what we should be doing in the workplace to retain and promote diverse talent."
What challenges do women face when it comes to achieving promotion or reaching a senior position? What can be done to counter difficulties experienced here?
"Women are more inclined to have a ‘perfect’ resume before applying for a role, versus male counterparts, who tend to just ‘go for it’, in comparison. Job specs may have a part to play to help women overcome key challenges and encourage them to apply for roles. One of our member companies are piloting a programme on current and new job specs, comparing the use of masculine words and language. The purpose is to determine if there is a difference in applications by simply changing the content of the job spec.
"Development programmes to support & promote women in leadership, plus cultural programmes like Unconscious Bias and ‘Men Advocating Real Change’ (e.g. MARC Programme), are central to promoting the right conditions for empowering women to exceed in leadership."