Supporting Women in Technology – The MinT Initiative

There is a growing demand for ICT skills and Forfas has predicted an approximate 5% increase in jobs per year until 2018 in the IT Sector; yet when “less than a quarter of the IT workforce in Ireland is female” Richard Eardley (Managing Director, Hays Ireland) there is a significant imbalance regarding gender within this industry sector.

A survey undertaken in May 2014 by James Milligan (Sr. Business Director, Hays Ireland) and Susan Hogan (Operations Manager, Creme Global) resulted in insightful findings and subsequent report on the Irish gender imbalance in IT: Women in IT – Untapped answer to the skills shortage.Work 2

Over 150 successful female IT professionals responded and three key recommendations for developing greater female participation in IT were suggested:

  • Education – Inform and Reform
  • Work – Improve the Work Environment
  • Culture – Broaden the Talent Base

Culture 2An additional four key changes respondents felt would encourage more women in IT were also highlighted:

  • Greater gender balance
  • Improved education at primary and secondary school level
  • Increased flexibility for working mothers and
  • Changing the perception of IT to ensure career opportunities are more easily understood and it is viewed as less ‘geeky’

Further Insights from the Survey

Sharon Keogh (Head of Data Change in AIB); Alexis Robinson (Project Manager in IBM) and Sinead Caulfield, (Business Support Director in Fujitsu Ireland), agree that promoting STEM subjects and providing girls with exposure to technology earlier in their education would be supportive in encouraging girls to take an interest in IT.

Another trend from respondents is knowing who you are and aligning this skillset and interest to targeting a position, considering a “more introvert role like development or a more extrovert role like Project Management” Vera Miller, (Manager, Project Management Office, ESB).  Vera also notes that having very good mentors to challenge and guide her were of particular influence, “It can be a great advantage to have someone who believes in you.”

Accenture, who took action after recognising that they traditionally hired more men relative to women in IT resulting in more men in senior positions; “invested in business coaching for female employees and provided mentors;…as a result, Accenture Ireland now has a larger number of women at manager level than men” Hilary O’Meara, (Head of Technology, Accenture).

As “(women) continue to be under represented in ICT… they are a vital untapped resource in meeting the current and future demands of the tech sector…Ireland is the second largest exporter of computer and IT Services in the world…We (government) are committed… to drive the message that ICT is a worthwhile and fulfilling career for men and women alike.” Eamon Gilmore, T.D.

The Result

Based on the significant demand for IT skills currently in the Irish market and the low numbers of women working in the industry, James and Susan embarked on an initiative to help bridge this discrepancy of women in technology.

This resulted in the development of a networking platform that will positively engage and encourage Women in IT to mentor and provide insights and advice to other women considering, operating and progressing in the IT industry.

What is MinT 2Yesterday evening saw the launch of this initiative; MinT Mentoring in Technology. James talked through the findings of the report and clarified that the platform is explicitly for industry specific volunteer advisory services and it is not a platform for promoting or attracting business.  The mission is to ensure that the network delivers what it was created to deliver – valuable mentor / mentee relationships; noting a mentor is someone whose hindsight becomes your foresight.”

Susan showcased the programme and its current functionality; she emphasised that “this is a platform that has been developed to support Women in IT. Its success will only be gained by the engagement and participation of active members and the appropriate matching of mentor/mentee opportunities and additional group discussions across the forum.” Susan stressed that “this is your platform, you are the community who need to drive and help it succeed in bringing the support and guidance that is much-needed.”

If you are a woman interested in working or currently working in the Technology sector and would appreciate and gain value in having a mentor to support and encourage you in relation to your career development, then MinT is an option for you.  Patience is advised and requested while the network platform initially populates with Mentors and Mentees. For further information and to register as a mentor or mentee consult the website: https://mint.idirus.com/

I personally see value in this initiative, women are not only an untapped resource for the ICT sector but we are also an untapped resource for ourselves. Those that have successfully risen in the ranks have valuable insights and experience that given freely and promoted positively can only influence and guide those looking to follow suit.

I wish Susan and James the very best of luck with the new MinT network platform and look forward to feedback in relation to growing numbers and hopefully, in the near future, success stories stemming from this initiative.

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