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posted: 3/31/2017 1:00 AM

Local studies highlight gap, struggles for women in IT

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  • Two separate studies from Rolling Meadows-based ISACA and the Career Advisory Board of Downers Grove-based DeVry University highlight the gap of women in the workforce, as well as the issues that are keeping them from realizing their potential in technology.

    Two separate studies from Rolling Meadows-based ISACA and the Career Advisory Board of Downers Grove-based DeVry University highlight the gap of women in the workforce, as well as the issues that are keeping them from realizing their potential in technology.
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There's no debating that employers in technology industries point to a skills gap as a reason they cannot fill job openings.

However, two recent studies from suburban-based organizations point to a bigger gap in a key area of the potential workforce -- women.

Separate studies from Rolling Meadows-based technology association ISACA and the Career Advisory Board of Downers Grove-based DeVry University highlight the gap of women in the workforce and the issues that are keeping them from realizing their potential in technology.

In the ISACA study -- released in March to coincide with International Women's Day -- the organization cites wage inequality compared to male workers, workplace gender bias and a shortage of female role models among the main barriers faced by women in the field.

More than 500 female members of ISACA participated in a online survey conducted in November 2016. The findings showed the top five barriers women experience in the field are a lack of mentors (48 percent); lack of female role models in the field (42 percent); gender bias in the workplace (39 percent); unequal growth opportunities compared to men (36 percent); and unequal pay for the same skills (35 percent).

Seventy-five percent said their employer lacks a gender leadership development program, while 8 out of 10 women said their supervisors are male and 8 percent said they never experienced gender bias in the workplace.

"Women are vastly underrepresented in the global technology workforce. This is not only a societal concern, but also a workforce problem, given the critical shortage of skilled technology professionals faced by many enterprises," Jo Stewart-Rattray, an ISACA board director and director of information security and IT assurance at BRM Holdich, said in a prepared statement.

The survey found that women want mentors, role models and strong networking opportunities.

While the Career Advisory Board study was more broadly focused on an the overall gap in applied and hard technology skills in the workforce, one of its key recommendation is training and hiring more women to fill the jobs that need to be filled in the industry.

"On a certain level, the tech skills gap doesn't make any sense," the report states. "Why not fill it with women, who are 50 percent of the population, yet are massively underrepresented in the IT industry?"

The study recommends the public and private sectors partner to establish skills development programs that target girls a at a very young age, and support them with mentoring and resources as they proceed through school and into their careers.

On a broader level, the Career Advisory Board study found employers say they are stymied in filling jobs because of a lack in applied and hard technology skills among current employees and new applicants.

The group contacted 500 executives, hiring managers and HR professionals in the industry, and found 71 percent agreed it is rare for an employee to possess all requirements outlined in a job description. Nearly 60 percent said it was common for job applicants to lack the technology skills important for success in their career, with half reporting a tech skills deficit in their current employee base.

"The tech skills gap is a well-known issue among both educators and employers," said Alexandra Levit, chair of the Career Advisory Board.

Four in five agreed that for technology to be effective, it must integrate people, process, data and devices.

In addition to tapping into the women employee pool, the study recommends educational institutions consistently upgrade its curricula and leverage design thinking, encourage tinkering, build reciprocal mentorship channels and review what's working elsewhere.