CompTIA wants to close IT gender gap

Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president of industry relations at CompTIA

Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president of industry relations at CompTIA.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever visited an IT shop or attended a tech trade show: Women make up half the American workforce but account for just a quarter of information technology jobs. Not only is it unfair, it’s stifling the industry’s ability to grow and flourish.

There’s been sluggish movement to correct the inequity, from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”campaign to social media efforts targeting and calling out all-male panels at trade shows. Now the channel can boast an effort of its own in this worthy cause.

CompTIA on Wednesday announced an initiative aimed bringing more women into the IT workforce. The Dream IT program is “a new evangelism platform to empower girls and women to pursue degrees and careers in technology,” officials of the non-profit advocacy and training organization said.

Dream IT will be run through CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT Community and is being kicked off at the Channel Focus North America event in Phoenix this week, with a call to technology business owners, executives and leaders to join in the worthy and long-overdue effort.

“Our goal is to create a grassroots movement and reach 10,000 women and girls with information about the opportunities, rewards and value of IT professions,” said Nancy Hammervik, senior vice president of industry relations at CompTIA in Downers Grove, Ill. “Through Dream IT, women currently employed in the industry, those who aspire to join us and men who support our mission will be equipped to go into their communities and schools and speak directly with women and girls about careers in technology.”

By summer, CompTIA will arm this team of evangelists with presentation materials, videos and career information, officials said.

Not only is the gender gap in technology unfair, it’s unfathomable in an industry suffering from a withering skills gap and labor shortage that threatens to stifle growth in what should be a robust segment.

In a recent CompTIA study, eight out of 10 IT companies said lack of IT skills is hurting operations and their ability to capitalize on revenue opportunities; 41 percent say IT skill gaps are impeding staff productivity; one-third of the participants say customer service and engagements are hurt; and 34 percent say their time-to-market with new products and services is impaired. The impact is felt in businesses’ wallets, with 23 percent of SMBs and 15 percent of midmarket and enterprise businesses reporting suffering profits.

During the first quarter of 2014 there were 589,205 IT job openings in the U.S., according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights, a 26 percent increase last year.

The problem is acute in cloud services. A recent IDC report, sponsored by Microsoft Corp., showed 1.7 million cloud-related IT jobs went unfilled last year, and the number of available cloud positions will swell 26 percent per year to seven million by 2015.

Hiring managers in hospitals and other medical care facilities are stymied by the lack of skilled health care IT workers, according to research by HIMSS Analytics, which found 76 percent of health care provider organizations intend to outsource a service rather than hire directly. The “get-them-wherever-you-can” mentality is also having a profound effect at IT staffing firms, where year-over-year aggregate revenue growth among IT staffing firms was up 15 percent since last May, according to a Pulse Survey by Staffing Industry Analysts.

Partners are being forced to compete for IT talent not only with other solution providers, but with well-funded internal enterprise IT departments — and the news isn’t getting better. A recent study by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology shows a continued enterprise hiring spree, with more than one in three CIOs (35 percent) planning to hire new IT graduates this year.

A recent Technology Councils of North America survey of  more than 1,700 C-level executives finds nearly two-thirds (63 percent) intend to hire staff over the next 12 month,s but 69 percent say they are hamstrung by the shortage in the quantity and quality of available tech talent.

“Companies are feeling better about business conditions, but the talent shortage issue has the potential to sidetrack growth,” said Steven G. Zylstra, TECNA chairman and president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Technology Council.

That makes the campaign to attract more women into the IT workforce much more than an altruistic endeavor; it’s a moral and practical imperative.

“Young women can fill this gap, but we must do a better job of communicating their potential first,” said Hammervik.

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