'There are real women working in IT who lead interesting lives': Dr Janice O’Connell
THE Mid-West Tech Ambassador is warning of a crisis in the IT sector if urgent action is not taken to attract new talent.
Dr Janice O’Connell made her comments while briefing members of the Economic Development, Enterprise and Planning Strategic Policy Committee on the digital strategy for the region.
Around 2,000 hi-tech jobs have been announced in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary over the past two years and efforts are now underway to ensure there is a talent pool available to employers going forward.
Dr O’Connell, who is on secondment from LIT to Innovate Limerick, says a key part of the strategy is to increase the number of women working in IT.
It’s estimated that just seven per cent of those working in IT are women compared to around 25% in other sectors such as STEM.
“A lot of this has to do with the fact that the jobs are portrayed as being for nerds and geeks and the nerd and the geek term has more connotations to it, it means you are boring, it’s got a personality trait associated with it,” said Dr O’Connell, who insists this does not match the reality.
”There are real women working in IT who lead interesting lives. They are not nerds and they have personality and we need to get that message across,” said Dr O’Connell, who told members of the SPC that if Limerick can “crack the nut” and get more women into IT, it will be a game changer for the region.
“If we can figure out how to crack that nut and how to get more women into IT, then I do think the rest of the country will sit up and say what did they do in Limerick? What did they do in the Mid West? And you would have people in Silicon Valley saying what have you done? How did you manage to do that in a short period of time? So I want to portray the message that there are real women working in IT,” she told the Limerick Leader.
She says workers in core IT areas such as progamming and software developers can command high salaries and enjoy both interesting and rewarding career opportunities.
In addition to encouraging more women to work in IT, Dr O’Connell says efforts are also being made to attract homemakers and the underemployed who want to pursue a career in the industry.
“There are a lot of graduates who came out during the recession years between 2007 and 2014. They probably can’t afford to give up their job in the cinema or stacking shelves to go back to education to upskill but yet they don’t know how to do this,” she explained.