Australia ICT sector must do more for diversity

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Non-profit organisation calling for the ICT industry to address gender diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Australian employee association registered organisation, Professionals Australia is calling on the information and communication technology (ICT) sector to do more to address gender diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment against women.

The call comes after the ICT Professionals Employment and Renumeration Report 2021 found little was being done by industry to address these significant workplace issues.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said the report should act as a ‘wakeup call’ to an industry that has not taken meaningful action to include and support women in the sector.

“This report clearly demonstrates that more needs to be done to attract, retain and support women working the ICT sector,” she said. “The proportion of women employed in ICT is still very low. Only 28 per cent of ICT employees are women, compared with all other professional industries where women represent 45 per cent of the workforce.

However, 76 per cent of survey respondents said that their organisation had policies in place to deal with discrimination, these policies were clearly not working with 56 per cent of women reporting they had experienced discrimination on the basis of gender over the past three years, compared to just 2.8 per cent of men, noted McCabe.

“Most concerningly, over 20 per cent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment. “Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are illegal, damage the careers of affected workers and impact negatively on their health and safety.

While workplace policies are a necessary starting point, organisational leaders need to drive, model, and embed a culture of respect across their organisations.

The report also found that wage growth in the ICT was generally low, with an increase of just 1.4 per cent this year while 42 per cent reported they had not received a pay increase in the previous 12 months.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 economic downturn I urge all leaders across the ICT sector to use this moment as an opportunity to reshape their organisations for the better,” said McCabe.

“Instilling greater diversity, fairness and balance into ICT workplaces is an investment which will return long-term social and economic benefits for the future of the sector.”

Other findings include:

  • On average, respondents identified work/life balance as their highest workplace priority, followed by job satisfaction, a pay increase and job security.
  • The fourth to seventh priorities were all ranked similarly on average. ICT professionals are also uniquely placed to understand the issues likely to affect their workplace over the coming year that may have a major impact on employers and the wider economy.
  • When asked about the anticipated importance of several key issues over the coming year, ICT professionals identified data breaches/data security/data protection as the most important issue with 85.0 per cent indicating that it was likely to be an important or particularly important issue in their workplace.
  • Organisational data management standards came in second with 77.2 per cent rating the issue as important or very important, followed by business intelligence and analytics at 73.3 per cent.
  • Overall, ICT professionals believed that their employers value the ICT profession, generally viewing ICT professionals as a source of efficiency, innovation and profit. There is however potential for employers to better utilise their ICT capability with still a significant proportion not sufficiently understanding the extent to which ICT professionals can assist their organisations in these areas.
  • 6 per cent of respondents believe their employers do not understand or barely understand the ability of ICT professionals to drive innovation.
  • 3 per cent of respondents believe their employers do not understand or barely understand the ability of ICT professionals to drive profit.
  • 8 per cent of respondents believe their employers do not understand or barely understand the ability of ICT professionals to drive efficiencies
  • COVID-19 has also had an impact on ICT professionals, with:
  • Enabling flexible working arrangements by supporting and deploying technologies for workplaces. Expecting the pandemic to have had notable effects on ICT professionals we asked survey respondents to indicate how the pandemic had impacted them from a wide range of common outcomes.
  • The biggest impact on ICT professionals was through employers instructing them to work from home, cited by 76.7 per cent of respondents. Face to face work meetings being cancelled and non-essential travel were the other impacts cited by most respondents.
  • Of concern, 22.9 per cent of survey respondents indicated experiencing anxiety/mental distress due to the pandemics impact on their ability to work. It is incumbent on employers to ensure they offer resources to help professionals manage the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
  • Despite the core importance of the roles performed by ICT professionals during the pandemic, they were not immune from the negative employment impacts. Roughly one in ten survey respondents reported receiving JobKeeper, the Commonwealth employee subsidy program to encourage employers to keep staff on the books.
  • Being required to use annual leave was reasonably common, cited by 18.0 per cent of respondents