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The Varied and Satisfying Career Options of the ICT Industry

There are some potent stereotypes associated with those who work with technology but do the stereotypes do the ICT industry any favours?

Some of these stereotypes have been humorously exploited on television. Think of the check-shirt-and-tie wearing Maurice Moss of the IT Crowd who lives with his mother. And who can forget NCIS’s gothic piggy-tailed Abby Scuito who loves online gaming and has a tendency to describe things too technically?
Research conducted in the US sought to find out whether stereotypes played a role in people choosing to study or work in technical fields, in particular, whether the stereotypes were holding women back from ICT.  

One such study found that women who were exposed to the biographies of female engineers were more likely to be positive about mathematics than women who had only seen information about male engineers. The study also found that both men and women were more interested in studying computer science when they read a newspaper article stating that the stereotypes did not fit reality in the industry.
In 2016 there is a strong push from the Commonwealth Government to encourage people to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with $13 million to be invested in encouraging more women to embark on careers in Science, Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology. The NSW Government has also introduced scholarships for people taking up training within these sectors.
It is easy to see why there is a state and Commonwealth push for this. In the context of the current pace of technological advancement, innovation and technology are essential for the growth of the economy.
There can be confusion however about what constitutes the ICT industry. There are many workers who use technologies in very complex ways but don’t necessarily work in the ICT industry. For example, social media and content creators work with technology but as a broad definition, it is the creators or supporters of the technology who work within the ICT industry.
One of the impediments to growth in the ICT industry, particularly in terms of attracting women into the industry, is a misconception about what it is like working in the industry. There is a stigma that the ICT industry is overly technical and ‘geeky’, appealing more to men than women. Many might imagine ICT work as physical or taking place in dark, noisy, fan-filled rooms. However, those who work within the industry have a different perception of the industry, considering it to be fun, financially rewarding and having many opportunities for career advancement.
The ICT industry is in fact very diverse with many career opportunities. Currently within the industry, some of the growth areas include Cyber Security and Privacy, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Big Data and ICT Project Management.
ICT workers need a variety of skills such as problem solving, analysis, creativity and interpersonal skills. There can be flexibility within the ICT industry with some opportunity to work off site or outside of business hours. There is no reason why men would have an advantage over women in these roles.
Unfortunately, the present reality is that only 25% of graduates and 30% of workers in ICT are women.
It also seems that many of the women who do choose to work in the ICT industry find their way there by an unconventional or even accidental path. In 2013, Deloitte produced a report on the perspectives and perceptions of Australia’s most successful female technology leaders. Interestingly, none of these women were initially attracted to the ICT industry, about which they are now passionate. None cited a role model, parent or teacher influencing their decision to enter the industry. A number of these women were actually directed away from the industry by their influencers, but nonetheless drifted into it through other interests.
I believe that to attract the talented people to the industry, both male and female, we need to break down the stigmas associated with it. The industry needs to be promoted as a great career option in and of itself. It needs to be promoted in this way not only to potential workers but also to parents, teachers and other influencers.
TAFE Western Sydney and its online and distance learning brand OTEN are working to demystify the ICT industry and link learners to successful and viable careers. We are doing this through talks to school groups, information sessions and through events such as the CISCO Live - Women Rock IT series. These initiatives aim to show the ICT industry as attractive and diverse.
We are also very fortunate to have very talented and experienced ICT teachers who are imparting relevant and practical skills, which enable our students and the enterprises we service to succeed and flourish.

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