Historical Perspective of Australian Women in Computing

Historical Perspective of Australian Women in Computing

Annemieke Craig (Deakin University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch117
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Abstract

Women’s participation in the Australian workforce has been increasing since the mid-1950s. In 1954, women made up 23% of the total labour force (Office for Women [OFW], 2004), but by 2004, they accounted for 44.5% (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2004). Over the same period, there was growth in new employment opportunities in the emerging computer industry. However, this industry did not manage to attract equal numbers of women and men, and currently women account for about one fifth of the Australian ICT workforce (Maslog-Levis, 2005). Women are paid less than men in similar positions in this sector and are less likely to hold senior management positions (Byrne & Staehr, 2003). Gender imbalance in employment is not unique to computing. Australia’s workforce is more gender segregated than that of most other industrialised countries (Gray, 2003). Over half of all female employees are employed in the clerical, sales, and service groups of occupations, and these are areas where there are substantially less men (ABS, 2000). Men dominate the trades, production, and transport occupations. When does gender imbalance become a concern? Common sense would suggest that it has become a problem when gender imbalance has a detrimental effect on some sections of society. The computing profession is an area where gender imbalance is of concern. New technologies bring about changes that have the potential to affect all society, and we “would be most likely to achieve maximum benefit if each significant section of society was represented in the planning decisions” (Ryan, 1994, p. 548). Without diversity in the ICT workforce, “we limit the set of life experiences that are applied, and as a result, we pay an opportunity cost, a cost in products not built, in designs not considered, in constraints not understood, in processes not invented” (Wulf, 1998). Unless more women are employed in the areas of ICT design and development, these products and services are unlikely to meet the needs and desires of approximately half the population. Women need to be actively involved in all levels of these new technologies that have such immense potential for social change.

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