Skills shortage in IT industry and the need to broaden resource pool
The lack of diversity in the tech industry is nothing new, but it is now becoming a business critical issue as the technology industry and IT departments look to fill the skills gap. Addressing the lack of diversity – is not just the right thing to do but is also critical in driving innovative business and continued growth.
One of the identified solutions to addressing the skills gap, is to increase the female participation and interest in the IT industry, mainly through a refocus on STEM subjects and opportunity career paths. There is a lot of focus and initiative around addressing the gender gap in the IT industry but diversity stretches to age, ethnicity, background and education history. However for this blog, I wanted to bring personal experience to the discussion and to raise two areas that may be overlooked in attracting women into the IT industry specifically as well as motivating their return to a market they may have left following university/school. Let’s call them ‘the returned emigrants’.
Two key areas where more discussion is needed is the breadth of the roles within the IT industry and also the target market for the ‘returned emigrants’.
How to win hearts and minds:
First with regard to the roles within the IT industry, there has been a lot of focus in STEM initiatives targeting increased female industry participation balance, on the importance of role models within the IT industry. The thought is that young women may identify and understand the career paths of women to senior levels in IT organisations, which may increase ability to visualise the realisation of a career path. The challenge is always to balance the ability of the young women to relate to these role models and to avoid the women in question being seen as the exception or the novelty within the industry.
Having been in the IT industry for over 25 years in Ireland, Europe and North America, what has become clear is not the need just for role models at the exceptional level in the IT industry but to explain to young women that their interests and passions can be answered in the diversity of the roles within the IT industry perhaps better than any other.
IT Industry is not just for Techies!
When we engage with the girls in their late teens and twenties and understand the motivations and focuses in our lives, key areas are often ability to travel, helping society and giving back, impacting environmental protection , fair financial reward, learning fun environments, having a voice within the role or team that you work, and ability to change role prior to making a commitment to a long term career path. This flexibility, dynamic and challenging environment is so different than the objectives of 20-30 years ago of securing a career and a job of which 20 years later, the motivation or catalyst of which is often forgotten.
The next step in engaging these young women is to align their personal objectives and motivations with the language and roles that are relevant in the IT industry and this is where the misfit can occur. Ask any 18 year old to define what a OEM alliance manager, a European product manager, a vertical regional sales director or a service delivery escalation manager is and why this would not be her choice of career and we may understand the challenge to ‘selling’ the IT industry. Even after years in the IT industry, the breadth of roles, their function and how they all relate to the delivery of an innovative growth IT company with potential global impact from a societal, environmental and economic perspective is a challenge for employees, let alone potential participants in this industry.
The suggestion is to start with the motivation and passions of the target female population who are making their decisions around career paths and apply these to roles within the IT industry. As an example from the above:
- OEM Alliance Manager : Loves working with people and bringing together teams with different roles and focuses. Travel. Partnership. Joint versus individual success. Team Player. Focuses on achieving goals. Driven. Strong communication. Empathy.
- Vertical Regional Sales Director : Particular interest in a specific industry – Healthcare, Education, Banking – could be from life experience, project work done in school etc. – helping people in the industry with your company’s solutions. Ability to impact the delivery of a key service for society. Team player. Goal driven. Travel.
- Service Delivery Escalation Manager : Loves helping people and solving problems. Empathetic. Loves different challenges every day and finding solutions. Motivating people. Team player. High Standards and getting things done.
Once there is an alignment between the passions, motivations and personality type of the job seeker and the key characteristics and values gained in the role, then there may be more interest in understanding the position and entering the IT industry. Its about making the IT industry accessible, relevant and capable of delivering personal challenge and objectives.
The Call of Home – How to make it heard!
With regard to attracting ‘the returned emigrant’, a key factor to focus on to impact this life-changing decision is life-style choice and life stage. Emmigration is driven by many factors – leaving Ireland 28 years ago was driven by the jobs market (or lack of), curiosity to explore the world, sense of adventure and to test and challenge life learnings to date to evaluate if they could enable self-growth and preservation. The motivation to return home was driven by different life circumstance, the priority of family versus personal choice and the achievement of many life and career goals and ambitions.
There is an opportunity to target the returning emigrant by addressing the motivations of their current life stage with solutions to address their concerns. Examples are ease of access to education for their children, how to address complete lack of banking/credit history in the local market, and as only Ireland can sometimes challenge, accept that experience gained in international markets is relevant and necessary to grow the indigenous IP pool.
One of the key benefits for both the new female recruit assessing the IT industry and the returning female IT emigrant, is the ability to leverage working in global IT organisations and to travel out and to return under the security and support of these global organisations. For the outward bound recruit, visa support, living support and dynamic working environment is enabled in the global IT community. For the returning seasoned employee, there is the safety of the ability to transfer within these organisations, leverage employee history and achievement to ease the re-immersion into home country. The question is, are the local organisations seeking to retain this talent, working with the international organisation to incentivise this transfer?
The thought behind this blog, is to communicate the importance of focus on women’s motivations and life choices to align opportunity within the IT industry – this is an incredible industry in which to work, travel and grow and our challenge is to relate this opportunity to the next generation and to support the women who want to remain in the industry and return home.
Sophia Byrne | Asystec Services Sales Manager