Micro-Interview | Overcoming gender stereotypes in the ICT sector

Europe lacks ICT specialists — the demand is growing year after year and there are still not enough women in the profession. Currently, only 1 in 5 (18,5%) ICT specialists employed in the EU are women[1] and Europe cannot afford to miss out on a large pool of talent.

Having more women in ICT is also important to ensure that the tech of tomorrow meets the needs of all people, such as developing inclusive AI-based solutions with diverse teams to help avoid blind spots. Upskilling and reskilling women into software-related professions can be a great opportunity to overcome the gender pay gap and gender employment gap in the EU.

On this, we talked with Elena Cantiani from the Adecco Group (Mylia) about gender stereotypes in the ICT sector, the still existing gender gap, and the change in the number of women attending software training at Adecco Formazione.

Thank you, Elena. Let’s get started.

How big is the gender gap in the ICT sector? Are more women preparing for software roles now than in the past?

Elena Cantiani: The data from the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 of the World Economic Forum shows that ICT is among the fields with the biggest gender gap. Let’s look at the example: 8.2% of all graduates are men graduating in ICT. For women, this percentage is only 1.7. Women are still underrepresented in the ICT field. However, between 2019 and 2021, we observed a significant increase in female participation in online training preparing for software roles. It motivated us to go further and in September 2022 the Adecco Group launched the first edition of She Fintech, an initiative dedicated to 30 newly graduated women under the age of 30. It is an online professional higher education training program in the field of fintech, realized in collaboration with the POLIMI Graduate School of Management.

Do you believe that women’s underrepresentation in the ICT sector is caused by gender stereotypes? How can we deconstruct them?

Elena Cantiani: Gender stereotypes about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), that often emerge during childhood, have long-lasting consequences for girls’ and women’s career choices. The biggest barriers to gender equality in the ICT field are stereotypes, women’s self-perception, and often lack of confidence. Enhancing women’s self-esteem in ICT is the first step towards gender convergence in this sector. At an early stage, the schools have an essential role in this process. Companies’ actions are also crucial. They can encourage women to apply for ICT roles at all levels, from beginners to middle and top management positions.

How is Adecco Italy addressing the gender gap and gender bias in the ICT field? How can ESSA support?

Elena Cantiani: The Adecco Group works to support women across all fields of science and technology by deconstructing gender stereotypes among its employees and in access to the job market. Thanks to the EU Funding Team, we are currently involved in several projects that cover this topic from different perspectives.

Furthermore, in 2022 we published the AI-based gender and race/origin bias detection toolkit, which explains how to identify gender and race biases in the recruitment processes that use AI algorithms developed under the Grase project. The Adecco Group is also a partner of Aequitas, an open-source bias audit toolkit for machine learning developers, analysts, and policymakers.

Being a partner of ESSA allows us to promote the role of ICT and software skills in Europe with a non-biased approach. ESSA educational profiles and related training paths help us in preparing people for software roles. From the beginning of the project, it has been very clear that the educational profiles do not discriminate against any gender. Adecco’s partnership with ESSA contributes to our actions toward overcoming the gender gap and bias in the ICT sector and helps us promote upskilling and reskilling into software roles among women.

[1] The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), 2022. Available at: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/desi.

Cover Picture by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.