Looking beyond gender in ICT skills development

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Along with focusing on reducing the local ICT gender skills gap, industry and government must focus on creating a holistic approach to skills development that include  the soft skills required for the modern work environment, says Linda Misauer, VP of Software Security and Chair of the Women’s Impact Network at Redstor, a born-in-the cloud software vendor and provider of the smarter cloud backup platform of choice for managed service providers (MSPs).

“Significant progress has been made to get women into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) from a young age. Now, the focus must be on providing all genders with the means to enhance their softer skills, build their support systems, and find guidance on how to progress in their careers. This requires a rethink on how we create a comprehensive eco system of skills development that can take place from a young age,” she says.

Access to opportunities

In the field of technology, being technically skilled is essential, but it is not the only requirement for success. A lack of workplace skills can hinder career growth and lead to a loss of confidence, despite having technical expertise. This is especially true for women in tech who may face additional barriers such as bias and stereotypes.

To bridge this gap and support women in tech, initiatives need to focus not just on creating awareness but also on developing essential workplace skills. For instance, fun and interactive hackathons could include team-building exercises, presentation skills, and effective communication training. These additional skill elements can provide a more comprehensive and valuable learning experience, allowing women to make informed decisions about their interest in pursuing IT as a career.

“There are many programmes today providing a wonderful platform, for instance Women in Tech and Girls Can Code as two examples. But these are very point solution-focused. While it is nice to send a woman on a course or have them attend a seminar, these do not give them the holistic tools they need to succeed in IT,” according to Misauer.

Creating a solid foundation starts with early exposure to IT and the development of essential workplace skills. However, this is just the beginning. To ensure the long-term success of women in tech, we must implement programmes that address the full lifecycle of their career. This includes skills development, mentoring, training, and strategies for dealing with workplace challenges such as stress, pressure, resilience, and adaptability.

It is not just about technical skills – soft skills are also critical for success in any field, and we need to focus on developing them across all genders. By providing comprehensive support and training throughout their career in tech, we can break down barriers and help them thrive in a male-dominated industry. Only then can we truly create a culture of diversity and inclusivity in the world of technology.

Practical focus

In the world of work, practical skills are just as crucial as academic knowledge. Bridging the gap between theoretical understanding and practical application is essential to reduce imposter syndrome and ensure success. Both men and women need to be trained on the expectations of a working environment to prepare them for the realities of a career.

To achieve this, having a comprehensive training, coaching, and support system in place is crucial. Encouraging diversity allies who can embrace differences and offer unique perspectives is key to driving progress.

“I found having a person in my life that is the voice of reason can be a massive help. We all face daily challenges, big or small. There should be at least one person who can provide you with advice from an outsider’s perspective. For me, formal mentoring is not something I enjoy as much as specific and relevant advice provided in the moment from someone you trust. Seeking lessons from individuals throughout your career journey can provide valuable guidance for navigating challenges and advancing professionally,” she adds.

By prioritising practical skills, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fostering a supportive and mentoring culture, we can bridge the gap between academia and the workplace and empower men and women to thrive in their careers.

Unique contributions

Embracing inclusion and diversity in the workplace can unlock unique contributions from each team member, regardless of gender. A diverse team with varying backgrounds and experiences can complement each other, resulting in a better business environment. However, it is essential to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking for what they want, whether it’s a promotion or a raise. Negotiation skills play a crucial role in this process.

Active participation in meetings and workplace initiatives is crucial for building a person’s profile and getting noticed, particularly for those new to a company. However, it is important to balance self-promotion with humility. Highlighting the value and measurable outcomes that individuals can deliver to the organisation is a more effective approach.

“Although the gender gap may no longer appear insurmountable, technical skills development alone is not enough. It is time to take a different angle and focus on diversity and inclusion to unlock the full potential of each team member. By doing so, we can create a workplace that empowers all individuals to reach their full potential and contribute to the success of the organisation,” she concludes.