With the International Women’s Day celebrations taking place on the weekend we have acknowledged the current position of women in our society, celebrated the importance of the female presence in the workforce and honoured the most successful women for their achievements.

This got us thinking of the women presence in certain industries, in particular, women in IT. According to the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census Population and Housing data there are currently only 18.5% of women to 81.5% men working in Information Technology.

As shocking as this statistics might seem, the industry itself might be accountable for this phenomenon.

“We blame the ‘dated’ image of the IT industry,” says James Harland, Associate Professor at the School of Computer Science and Information Technologies at RMIT University.

“Men have been dominating IT for a very long time. Part of it may be self-reinforcing because of the fact that there aren’t many women in the industry to begin with. This fact may indeed create the incorrect assumption for many women that IT is not a desirable or female friendly career path.”

However, it is important for this situation to change, and while 35% of CIOs confirm there are no women in IT management roles in their organisations and 24% have no women in their technical teams, over half of CIOs think relationships between IT and the business improve by hiring more women and 48% believe it enhances team cohesion and morale (according to the Harvey Nash CIO 2012 survey).

“We do realize that currently there are much less women in IT than men, and I think its because its seen to be a very male dominated industry. We encourage women to pursue IT careers as I believe we need a balance of male and female in every industry,” – says Miles Tran, co-owner of Milestone IT, a well-known IT recruitment organisation.

Furthermore, there’s a strong belief that IT has become an integral part of our daily lives. It’s almost impossible nowadays to get a job without having some computing skills. Therefore “it’s as important for women as it is for men. IT has now become fundamental in our society and it might take a while to show up in the numbers but there certainly seems to be signs that that recognition is there,” says Professor Harland.

The unfortunate circumstance is that general secondary education is lagging behind in this field. While general IT skills seem to be rightly fundamental to any school graduate, IT is not taught as a core subject, but rather as an elective. The traditional story is that “computing classes are often dominated by boys because boys are more forward and aggressive towards that sort of thing,” says Professor Harland. Does this factor force us to question secondary education and the role for which it plays in creating interest in IT for younger women? This would be quite hard to tell, but the general consensus is that it wouldn’t hurt to implement IT into the core curriculum. “IT shouldn’t be an afterthought or an optional extra, its something that’s fundamental to everybody,” confirms Professor Harland.

As part of the fundamental change to bring more women into IT, what is needed is a change in the way people look at the IT industry. “I truly believe that we need to break down those social barriers limiting women from entering the industry,” – says Mr. Tran. “It is important to encourage more females to choose IT as their career path, as I believe this will play a major role in maintaining the important balance of men and women within dynamic workplaces. While the International Women’s Day can serve as a good reminder to the matter, it is important to constantly keep working towards equality in numbers in our industry,” he continues.

The official theme of this International Women’s Day was set by United Nations to be “Inspiring Change”, and while this is not the kind of change that happens overnight, we are all working towards making sure that women share the same representation as that of men in all industries.