The CIO Show: Why 'women in IT' still doesn't compute in Australia

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In this episode, we revisit several of the key themes that came out of our first discussion about women in tech on The CIO Show last year, broadening the scope to look at some new and worrying trends, while progressing the conversation to include more practical steps CIOs can take to increase gender diversity.

But as Neha Kumar, senior analyst with Gartner cautions “women are over mentored and under sponsored” in the tech industry, calling for more practical and meaningful steps to increase female participation.

She shares her experiences as a computer engineering student in India, recalling that many of her classes had more women than men, a fact she attributes largely to a greater awareness amongst her and her fellow female students of the huge need to for tech skills across multiple industries.

Kumar also discusses the potential to apply technologies like AI to help tech leaders - and all hiring managers - to eliminate bias; a major change from the bad old days when companies like Amazon and Google were found to unwittingly using the same technology to perpetuate it.

Jennifer Rebeiro, chief information officer at Victorian utility, City West Water, reveals that just 10 percent – and often less – of the applications she’s seeing for the many tech roles she’s trying to fill are from women, while it’s becoming increasingly common that no women apply at all.

But why is this happening, especially given women make up around 20 percent of tech professionals in Australia?

Part of the reason certainly lies in what many see as innate gender differences, including the fact men tend to overstate their abilities with women more likely to do the opposite.

Joining Neha and Jennifer on this panel is fellow CIO50 2020 alumnus, Nicki Doble, global chief information officer and chief security information officer at multinational insurance firm Covermore, who agrees strongly with Kumar that mentoring is being overdone at the cost of real sponsorship. She stresses that there are a lot more technically capable women in the market than many believe.

But she emphasises that attracting and retaining them in tech roles requires creating the right structures and mentoring in genuine ways that truly resonate.

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