Microsoft goes back to school to attract girls

Young girls encouraged to take subjects that will set them up for a tertiary ICT education

Attracting women into ICT is a whole-industry challenge, but Microsoft has a number of initiatives in place to tap into that potential skills pool, Microsoft’s HR director, Sally Doherty, told Computerworld at Tech Ed last week.

“Half of the population is not in the [ICT] workforce, so we are missing a great opportunity,” she says.

Microsoft New Zealand employs around 30 women, which represents just 23% of its staff.

The average percentage of female employees in the ICT industry is around 25-30%, says Doherty.

The issue needs to be addressed on many different levels, she says. The pool of women with the relevant degrees and qualifications that would enable them to undertake a career in ICT is small. And, taking a step back, and looking at those still at school, the pool there with the qualifications to study ICT-related tertiary courses — that is also small as a percentage.

So, to get to the bottom of the problem, Microsoft is now connecting not only with universities, but also with high schools and even third- and fourth-formers, to encourage girls to take the subjects that will set them up for a tertiary ICT education.

“If we don’t get them there” it is too late by the time they chose their tertiary education, says Doherty.

The company also offers parents — not just mothers — flexible working hours and remote working options, to make it easier to juggle work and children’s crêche and school hours, she says.

“We are also looking at having a fridge and a room set up for women who are breastfeeding, so they can express milk. We are thinking consciously about making it an easy place for working parents to work,” she says.

In addition to having an internal global women in technology network, Microsoft is also involved with Women in Technology and is a Girl Geek dinners’ sponsor, says Doherty.

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