Breakout group 2 Women in the ICT work environment v2 by 532hW6


									Breakout Group 2 - Women in the ICT work
ICT as a leader in flexible working


Making the ICT work environment attractive for women

To attract and retain more women to work in ICT, initiatives could be considered in
fostering an attractive work environment, such as in relation to work-life balance,
flexible work arrangements and facilitating professional career development. A
number of key ICT organisations in Australia and overseas have recognised the
benefits of a diverse workforce and have been at the vanguard of promoting a work
environment which is more attractive to women.

However, further work needs to be done to build on this. The ICT industry is in fact
well placed to offer an excellent work/life balance. This is especially as ICT provides
the means for fostering a work environment that is more attractive to not only women
but also men, at different stages of their career lifecycle. For example, ICT facilitates
teleworking from home which offers a means to enable parents and carers to meet
both work and family responsibilities.

Work/life balance

The term ‘work-life balance’ implies a resolution of the tensions between the separate demands
in people’s lives of being both a valuable part of the workforce and a member of a broader
community, including a family. Work-life balance issues have come to the fore with the
changing nature of the family model and new patterns of combining work, education and
family responsibilities. Work-life balance issues particularly have an impact on women, who
still bear the majority of family responsibilities and so struggle with juggling motherhood and
career demands, combined in some cases with illegal discrimination in their work environment
due to their parenting responsibilities. Women employees are likely to be attracted to jobs with
flexible working conditions attached to help them successfully combine career and family.
Such jobs are also more likely to retain women and be attractive to women returning to the

Flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements such as job sharing, flexible working hours, part-time
work, teleworking, child care and maternity and parental leave are among the number
of measures that could encourage women to work in ICT. Examples of flexible
working arrangements that firms have chosen to offer include:

   part-time and job share
   access to single days annual leave
   ability to ‘salary sacrifice’ and ‘purchase’ extra leave for school holidays
   flexible work week, time off in lieu
   flexible start and finish times
   flexible leave including exam and study leave, leave of absence, family/carer’s
   paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave
   parenting rooms and breastfeeding facilities
   teleworking
   child care information and referral services, and
   various lifestyle programs

Career development

Research indicates that the hurdles to women’s full participation in management roles
in Australian business, which would also appear to apply to professions in the ICT
sector more specifically, include:

   organisational power structures and occupational segregation;
   stereotyping of women
   career aspirations of women themselves
   work-life balance priorities
   inaccessibility of informal boys’ networks, and
   unavailability of appropriate mentors.

Women need to be able to keep up with evolving trends and learn new skills required
by the continuing information revolution. Professional career development and on the
job training can provide the skills and capability needed for a thriving career.
Networking, e-learning and new technologies have provided new opportunities for
skill-building under informal and flexible conditions. A number of approaches can
help with women’s ICT career development, including:

   having strong, positive role models or female "icons" who are already working in
    ICT (or who have worked there) to promote the industry to help others make
    informed decisions on their career choices
   networking and supporting groups to provide information to encourage women to
    consider working in ICT
   mentoring is also seen as an effective means of providing women with the one-on-
    one training, skills and guidance to help them succeed, and
   delivering professional service and support to strengthen women’s ICT capability.

Government initiatives

The Australian Government has a range of initiatives to encourage a more attractive
work environment:
   a 2004 Government election commitment to a flexible workplace relations system
    that provides choices for working parents. The commitment also emphasised equal
    opportunities for women in the workplace and promoting these principles in the
    private and public sectors. The Government sees home-based work as providing
    great opportunities to many Australians, including women with young families,
    who value flexibility in their work arrangements, noting that technology is
    facilitating this to occur.

   the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has
    established an Australian Telework Advisory Committee (ATAC) to advise the
    Government on options and impediments to the development of teleworking
    opportunities for firms and employees. The Government recognises that increased
    adoption of teleworking has the potential to create savings for business and to
    provide opportunities for employees to balance their work and family
    responsibilities better. The ATAC will report to the Government by February

   the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations provides a range of
    programs for facilitating enhanced workforce participation and flexible, family
    friendly working arrangements. Details are at Attachment A.

   the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) is a
    statutory authority located within the Employment and Workplace Relations
    portfolio, established to administer the Equal Opportunity for Women in the
    Workplace Act 1999. EOWA works with employers in large companies to
    improve equal opportunity outcomes for women in the workplace. While ICT
    firms are largely SMEs and so are not legally obliged to institute workplace
    diversity measures, much may be learnt from the scheme.
   The Australian Government Office for Women (OfW) is a policy advisory unit
    and a division of the Department of Family and Community Services
    ( OfW provides advice to the Minister Assisting the Prime
    Minister for Women's Issues, including on legislative issues relating to women
    and the provision of a directory service providing access to a range of government
    information, services and resources which are specifically targeted at women or
    which are of specific relevance to women.

Industry responsibility

While the Government has a number of initiatives underway as detailed above, the
prime responsibility for an attractive ICT work environment rests with industry.

The Australian Computer Society sees a role for employers in providing flexible work
practices to facilitate a committed and productive ICT workforce. In its Work Life
Policy Statement (, the
ACS calls upon the industry to take a leadership position in adopting an employee
friendly work environment.

A number of major ICT organisations have taken the lead and introduced policies and
programs to encourage more women to enter the ICT profession. These organisations
recognise the competitive advantages which flow from harnessing the talents of the
whole workforce, both men and women. As examples, the following case studies
show a range of initiatives introduced by IBM Australia and Solution 6 Pty Ltd.

Case Study—IBM Australia

IBM has long been actively engaged at the corporate and industry levels in encouraging women to enter the
IT industry. It values diversity as a key point of competitive leverage and ensures that its workforce reflects

the population. IBM was a joint winner of the 2002 Gold ACCI/BCA National Work and Family Awards.

IBM has a number of initiatives and programs aimed at motivating and retaining women and encouraging
them to choose IT as a career. Some of these initiatives include:
   a Diversity Council chaired by the CEO that focuses on workforce diversity and includes the
    advancement of women
   diversity networking groups which include the Part-Time Networking Group and Women in Technology
   programs to encourage pre-tertiary women to consider ICT and to breakdown myths associated with a
    career in ICT
   regular salary reviews of pay equity to address any imbalances between men and women’s salary levels.
   12 weeks paid parental leave for the primary care-giver
   a job-sharing policy has been implemented and employees and managers are encouraged to consider
    flexible work arrangements
   Diversity Contact Officers are trained as work/life balance coaches to help staff maintain a healthy
    balance in their lives

As at 2003, these initiatives and programs resulted in a number of outcomes for IBM. These include:

   34 per cent of all women working part-time at IBM are in senior roles
   the number of senior women promoted into Asia-Pacific roles has increased
   26 per cent of technical roles are filled by women, compared with an industry average of 20 per cent
   the company has up to a 97 per cent return rate from maternity leave
   65 per cent of women recruited in 2003 were hired into technical roles
   40 per cent of graduate recruits are women
   over 6500 young women in IBM were involved in information programs on ICT to encourage it as a

The information in this case study is based on EOWA case studies located at

Case Study—Solution 6

Solution 6 Pty Ltd, now a member of the MYOB group, won the EOWA Employer of Choice for Women in
2003. At that time the company employed less than 500 employees, of which 52 per cent were female.
Solution 6 merged with MYOB in March 2004.

In September 2001, Solution 6 established the advancement of women as a strategic objective. This entailed
fostering and developing the talented women in the workplace.

To achieve this objective, the company
   appointed a member from its HR department as the company’s National EEO Coordinator to act as the
    champion for its strategic direction. Several focus groups were chaired by the EEO Coordinator, aimed
    at identifying specific issues for women and strategies to resolve these issues.
   expanded the annual employee satisfaction survey to include survey questions on the advancement of
   conducted informal consultation with managers and staff to identify issues for women in the workplace,
   put together a project team (branded the Butterfly Initiatives) charged with building a dynamic and

    inclusive employee culture.
   The gender ratio of Senior Executives and General Managers improved significantly. The percentage of
    females in junior development roles grew from 29 per cent to 38 per cent.
   The wage gap between males and females reduced significantly - from a variance of 20 per cent to 7 per
   Females took up 51 per cent of the internal employee transfers and 62 per cent of promotions.
   Ninety-five per cent of the women who took maternity leave returned and took advantage of flexible
    working hours in some way.

The information in this case study is based on EOWA case studies located at


The objective of Breakout Group 2 is to:

   discuss workplace issues that limit female participation in the ICT workplace and
    factors that affect the attractiveness of the workplace
   discuss practical solutions in improving the situation
   explore the sorts of flexible work practices that attract female employees and
    encourage retention rates, and consider whether the ICT sector is particularly
    amenable to such practices
   identify the practices used by particular organisations to support female ICT
   consider how to promote best practice relating to women in the work environment
    This includes the roles of government and industry in developing, and learning
    from each other's experiences in, best practices that emphasise an effective
    work-life balance, as a priority and a business imperative.


Breakout Group 2 is invited to consider the following draft outcomes. It may also
wish to consider other outcomes. In addition, while these outcomes as drafted are
focussed particularly on women, they should also be of benefit in supporting men's
participation in the industry.

1. Identify the work conditions in the ICT industry that best address the needs
   of women

The ICT work environment can be experienced by women as a ‘boys club’,
dominated by male employees and structured in a way that is inflexible to the needs of
women. There is also a perception that ICT professionals work long and unfriendly
hours. Women, and increasingly men, value a work environment that emphasises the
importance of work-life balance and that has structures in place that allow for
flexibility of work hours and leave.

For discussion
 What are the elements that contribute to a work environment that is supportive
   and responsive to the needs of female employees?
 What are the benefits to employees and employers?
 How can we learn from the success stories where industry has created supportive
   and attractive work environments?

Suggested outcome
“The Summit recognises the importance of flexible, family-friendly, ‘life-enhancing’
work conditions for attracting, supporting and retaining female employees, and
considers implementation of such arrangements as a business imperative for the ICT

2. Encouraging industry responsibility for the implementation of, and
   dissemination of information about, attractive work conditions

Individual firms are increasingly recognising the value of promoting themselves as
having attractive, flexible work environment. The flow-on effects of such a reputation
are higher retention rates and increased workplace diversity.

For discussion
 Is there potential for the ICT profession to be more flexible?
 Is the ICT sector, and are ICT skills, well suited to flexible practices such as
 What are the benefits to employees and employers?
 How can companies be encouraged to adopt flexible work practices?
 Are there any initiatives that can help to improve the image of long and unfriendly
   hours of ICT professionals?

Suggested outcome
“The ICT sector in particular is well placed to offer women an attractive and flexible
workplace. The Summit recognises the role for industry—both individual companies
and industry associations—to give priority to the ongoing development of work-life
balance initiatives.”

3. Creating a portal/database to facilitate sharing of information for making
   work practices more attractive

An internet portal could be one way of facilitating the sharing of best practice
initiatives that focus on making the ICT work environment attractive and adaptive to
women’s needs.

A database named the Family Friendly Agreements Clause Database is currently in
place and maintained by DEWR. It provides clauses which can be picked up by
employers and used in their agreements. The database can be found at

In regard to career development, mentoring systems can be helpful to initiate young
women into influential social networks in the work environment. There is a shortage
of potential female mentors in the ICT sector, which makes access to role models
through online networks perhaps a more viable option.

Researching previous mentoring programs for women that have successfully been
conducted can also be useful. For example, OfW funded the Association of
Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia (APESMA) to conduct a
mentoring program for professional women in male dominated industries. A
conference was held, associated websites were established and 250 women
participated in the mentoring program.

For discussion
 Would a portal/database be helpful for the sharing of information on flexible work
 Who would be responsible for establishing and ongoing maintenance of the
 Who should bear the cost? Could it be a user-pay system?

Suggested outcome
“The Summit considers it would be beneficial to establish a database of best
practices/success stories that help to make ICT workplaces attractive, such as in the
areas of work-life balance, flexible work arrangements and facilitating professional
career development. The responsibility for managing and funding such a database
would need to be determined.”

4. Individual responsibility for the ICT work environment

Often employees do not take advantage of flexible practices already in place. Even
given the best workplace environments, individuals need to take personal
responsibility for achieving the work-life balance that is right for them.

For discussion
 How can individuals inform themselves of the opportunities for flexible work
 What are the obstacles to employees taking advantages of such practices and how
   might they be overcome?

Suggested outcome
“The Summit also recognises that individuals need to take personal responsibility for
achieving the work-life balance that is right for them in the career they pursue.”


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