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How Ireland can improve gender equality in tech sector

Paul Sweetman

Director of Technology Ireland

Only a fraction of high-end technology jobs are held by women internationally. However, by taking the right action now, Ireland can become a world leader for gender balance in the tech sector.

For Paul Sweetman, Director of Technology Ireland, gender diversity is vital for all tech companies. And not just because it’s a laudable goal, but because it also “a business imperative”. Diversity is key. Men and women have different ideas and insights that can lead to better problem solving. Furthermore, in turn, this can improve a company’s financial performance.

However, Sweetman says: “Within the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Ireland, about 18.6 per cent are female. It’s clear that there’s a massive gender imbalance in the tech sector. Sadly this is not just in Ireland, it’s  an international issue.”

With a large demand for tech skills and talent in Ireland today, women should start thinking about entering these careers. This will help bridge the knowledge gaps men and women have with different ideas.

Men and women have different ideas and insights that can lead to better problem solving.

“The skills demand in the tech sector is not just for pure technical skills. It’s also for a wide variety of workers with business acumen, communication skills and, most importantly, creativity. Similarly staff need a willingness to be innovative and show initiative.

“Embracing change and driving change is going to be a hallmark of people who succeed in the technology arena today.

“To attract more women into tech, I think we need to change the conversation. We shouldn’t focus only on what you do in a tech career, but also on the outcomes of your job.

“We need to make the career exciting from the perspective of what you can do in the tech sector to impact your community, your country, and the wider world.”

Getting women involved

Sweetman says one way to encourage more females to work within the sector is to develop strong policies and initiatives.

“On a policy level, we are working with the government to establish a joint industry plan. We are developing an ICT skills and diversity action plan. This aims to address the skills demand and gender imbalance – this will be launched later this year.”

We are working to get women, who have taken career breaks, back into the tech workforce.

Technology Ireland also recently launched the Women ReBoot programme with Skillnets. The aim is to get women who may have taken career breaks back into the tech workforce.

“Some women might feel they don’t have the right skills or network that they need to get back into the workforce,” says Sweetman. “So, we support and direct women when making the step back in.

The ReBoot programme provides mentoring, training and work experience. We’re planning to increase the amount of women who participate. Currently there are 29 women on the programme and we hope to bring this up to 100.”

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Progressing in the tech sector industry

With the right skills and support, women will not only have the ability to help grow and drive a company forward, but also the chance to progress in a role themselves. However, for this to happen, we need to ensure women are getting equal access to subjects in the education system which can impact later career choices.

“The proportion of women who hold roles as exectutives in tech-related companies is very low – and this can be traced back to the education system. For example, if you wanted to become an engineer in Ireland, you needed to do honours level maths for most of the university engineering programmes.

“Back at the beginning of the careers of some current CEOs, honours level maths wasn’t taught in some girls’ schools. So, girls were instantly at a disadvantage with regard to getting into engineering programmes that then led onto other career moves.

“It’s important to look back and realise how difficult it was for women to take part in the programmes that were the ticket into a particular career or profession. I think that has definitely changed, but it’s probably a strong reason why fewer women have leadership roles in tech today. We have to avoid these mistakes in this generation.”

We want Ireland to be a step ahead of what other countries are doing.

Sweetman does feel the future is looking bright for women in tech to ensure men and women are sharing their different ideas.

“There are going to be good policy actions in place to try to correct the gender imbalance in the tech sector. It’s an ambition of ours to become a world leader in gender balance – we want to be a step ahead of what other countries are doing and currently, we’re making progress.”

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