The Old Approach


For decades, governments, associations, and individuals have enthusiastically jumped to “solve the women in IT issue” with a variety of intervention programs aimed at increasing recruitment and retention of women in IT. But beyond a few individual career choices and anecdotal “feel good” results on the day, these traditional programs have failed utterly. An estimate of the cumulative effort and spending on these programs demonstrates the sheer size of the exercise and underlines the depth of the failure. We do not need more of the same, but rather, we need to work out why we have failed. New informal research is presented in this chapter on the key influences on women choosing IT careers, delivering a key result that women in IT have always known they liked technology or they discovered (by an accident of their job) they liked IT. Interventions have had minimal effect but the importance of adapting to the Social Era for future interventions is recognised. The conclusion is that there is little value in the traditional approaches and further massive spending is unwarranted. Rather, we need to recognise that the primary driving issue is individual interests and talents, whilst the remaining barriers are best overcome by embracing the new era and using the disruptive technologies, platforms, and tools of #SocialIT.
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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again – and expecting different results – Albert Einstein (rumoured) (BrainyQuote, 2013)


What’S The Half Time Scorecard?

The short answer is “Good Intentions – no Outcomes” (Barbara Tobin: industry participant, former president of Queensland’s Women in Technology [WiT] and former chair of Australian Women in IT Science and Engineering [AWISE], personal communication, August 5, 2013).

A review of the literature reveals that across Western cultures similar kinds of projects and activities sprang up and were enthusiastically adopted. An example is NCWIT: “The National Centre for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a coalition of more than 250 corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to strengthen the computing workforce and promote technology innovation by increasing the participation of women and under-represented groups. NCWIT’s national programs and alliances focus on reforming the entire pipeline, from K-12 through higher education to corporate, academic, and entrepreneurial careers. We believe that inspiring more women to choose careers in computing isn’t only about equity, it’s also about innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. In a global economy driven by innovation, gender diversity in IT means a larger and more competitive workforce and the ability to create technology that is as broad and creative as the people it serves” (DuBow, 2011). One look at the comprehensive NCWIT Scorecard (available at reveals its broad reach; yet it is more about compelling arguments for “making a difference” and highlighting intervention programs than evidence of having had a statistically significant difference since NCWIT’s establishment in 2004.

Being able to understand that difference and measure it in a consistently objective way may be part of the solution, as hinted at by the following comment: “Many intervention programs to increase the number of women in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) profession have been implemented over the last twenty years. Detailed evaluations help us to determine the effectiveness of these programs yet few comprehensive evaluations appear in the literature” (Craig, Fisher & Dawson 2011).

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