Today is International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day, a day set aside to encourage girls and women to consider careers in ‘tech'. It's no surprise that women are under-represented in the ICT sector. Many theories have been put forward as to why. In Canada, about 25 per cent of the ICT workforce are women. This number hasn't changed much in the past decade, which means we have a lot of work to do. In terms of overall numbers, CIRA appears to be doing well with regard to employing women. Currently, 40 per cent of our staff is female. However, that number declines to 28 per cent when we just count our Development and Operations Teams. Personally, I'd like to see that number much higher.
To learn more about what it's like working in ICT for women, I spoke with a couple of CIRA's female employees. Below is what they told me, in their own words. Please share these stories with young women that you think can benefit from reading them.
Anne-Marie Walton, Application Developer
Why did you choose a career in technology? I never thought I would have a career in IT. I wasn't exposed to computers very much when I was young so I was scared of using computers.I first discovered IT in university. I wasn't happy with my major, which was geology, and a friend suggested I try a few courses in computer science. I tried a few courses and loved them so much that I decided to switch my major to computer science. I'm so happy I did!
What is it like working in a male dominated field? Sometimes it's challenging. Some people are not very accepting of women in this field. On the other hand, there are some people who are fantastically happy to see women represented in the field. You just learn to be tolerant of people who haven't entered the current century and try not to take anything too personally.
Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology? If you love working in the IT environment, don't let the fact that it is a male dominated field stop you from pursuing it.
Why do you love working in IT? I love the fact that it's constantly changing. There are always new problems to solve. It's challenging and interesting.
Irena Zamboni, Quality Assurance Specialist
Why did you choose a career in technology? I did a survey in high school about what areas you are good at. It came back as math, science and business. Engineering was one of those fields that I knew would open doors. It never dawned on me that software was a career.I did an undergrad in electrical engineering and a Masters in biomedical engineering. During this time, I had a job doing software testing. I really enjoyed troubleshooting software. You use a lot of critical thinking. No one day of the job is the same. I'm pretty social, and being that it's a job that works with a lot of other departments in an organization, I really enjoyed that.
Did you have any role models that inspired you to enter the field? My dad is a mechanical engineer and my mom is a teacher. I was big into Legos, so I think my parents noticed that side of me and encouraged it. I was also inquisitive and I like to use my hands.In high school, I took a tech class and killed it. I was the only girl in the class and I got the highest mark. The guys were upset.I didn't know if I wanted to go into IT at the time, but I took that class to see what the field was about and what the options were.
What is it like working in a male dominated field? I personally love it. I find guys easy to get along with.I'm a bit of a tomboy. It never felt odd to be surrounded by more men than women. I think the biggest thing is to see yourself outside of your gender. My parents never talked about engineering as male dominated, or nursing as female dominated. I just saw (myself in field) as part of the norm.
Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology? Take everything that is available to you and at least try it. Don't make up your mind about something without trying it. Don't be afraid of making a change. Don't do something that makes others happy. Do something that makes you happy.