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The computer geek cliché lives on - and discourages women from pursuing careers in IT

Danish companies will miss out on talents and good ideas unless more women join the IT sector, says the Confederation of Danish Industry. A break with the computer geek cliché is necessary to solve the problem.
For years, the IT sector has missed out on women’s talents and good ideas. It is time for this to change, says the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Publiceret: 31.05.2017
Af Peter G. H. Madsen mail

Women are in short supply in the Danish IT sector. Whereas gender distribution is almost equal in the labour market at large, only 28 per cent of employees in the IT sector are women.

One critical explanation for the problem is the highly stereotyped perception of what it is like to work with computers and IT, explains Ida Kragh-Vodstrup, consultant at the Confederation of Danish Industry, who discussed the industry’s gender gap at ITU in Copenhagen last Monday.

“The culture and women’s assumptions in relation to what it means to study IT are some of the greatest barriers. It is still a commonly held conception that the IT industry is characterised by a geeky culture with long workdays and nights in front of the screen,” she says and adds:

“But this is a completely inaccurate image of the average workday at these companies. Today, IT is also about communicating with people and making things happen out in the real world.” 

See also: Women want it to serve a purpose

Severe shortage of IT specialists in coming years

The lack of women in IT will become particularly problematic in coming years, when, according to the Danish Business Authority, Denmark will face a severe shortage of IT specialists. According to the Business Authority’s calculations, the country will be lacking 19,000 IT specialists in 2030.

“If companies are only able to recruit from the male half of the population, we will miss out on all the talents and good ideas that the female half could have. This is something we cannot afford,” says Ida Kragh-Vodstrup.

And it is not solely IT companies that will be affected, she notes.

“Regardless of whether we’re talking companies that produce ovens, excavate sand or do marketing on social media, they have one thing in common; they all need IT specialists,” she says.

The solution, according to Ida Kragh-Vodstrup, is partly to break with the clichés surrounding IT, and partly to instil in young people - boys and girls alike - an appetite for IT early on in their education.

However, a study from the World Economic Forum also indicates that companies can do more themselves to get women interested in IT jobs.

According to the study, compared to other businesses, IT companies perform relatively poorly when it comes to targeted recruitment of female talents.

“IT companies also have the duty to demonstrate that there is plenty of opportunity for an exciting career in IT, and fortunately, we are seeing many examples of companies that inspire young women, for example by implementing mentor programmes for their female employees,” says Ida Kragh-Vodstrup.

IT companies also have the duty to demonstrate that there is plenty of opportunity for an exciting career in IT.
IDA KRAGH-VODSTRUP, CONSULTANT AT THE CONFEDERATION OF DANISH INDUSTRY
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PUBLISHED: 5/31/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 5/31/2017