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Women are underrepresented in ICT jobs in Belgium. It also has lower numbers of women graduating from ICT courses than any other country in Europe. Various initiatives are set to turn the tide.
Belgium is facing a major challenge. According to figures from European statistics and research agency Eurostat, no less than 86% of ICT workers in Belgium are male. This exceeds the EU average of 83%.
Lowest number of students
But there is more going on. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), less than 7% of new ICT students in higher education in Belgium are female. According to the OECD, only 19% of all ICT students are women.
Is improvement in sight? Yes, although it will be limited. Research conducted by Computable magazine has shown that 25% more students enrolled in ICT courses at 15 Belgian universities and colleges in the 2018-2019 academic year than the year before.
So why don't women go for ICT?
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), three major factors are causing and keeping the participation rate of women in ICT low:
- Women show less interest in ICT and are less likely to train as IT specialists.
- There is an idea that careers in the ICT sector favour men in particular.
- The IT world is traditionally regarded as an all-male all-male domain.
Belgium has never suffered such a great shortage of ICT professionals. It is therefore a genuine problem that ICT appeals to so few women in Belgium. The technological industries need a hugh influx of employees and therefore have to attract as many people as possible, both male and female.
The benefits of the ICT field
According to the European Data Journalism Network (EDJNet), job quality is higher in ICT than in most other sectors. The social environment and flexible hours may be particularly attractive to women. Plus, ICT is still one of the best paying sectors. More women in ICT could make a significant contribution to reducing the gender pay gap.
ICT jobs are often seen as being purely technical, but ICT is about so much more. Ingrid Gonnissen, who was named ICT Woman of the Year 2018 by tech magazine Data News, explains: ‘ICT is a creative, innovative field that uses technology as a tool. ICT people want to come up with solutions to help people. That is something both women and men can and want to do.’
Meanwhile, various initiatives are aiming to inspire women to pursue studies and careers in ICT. The government has developed plans to attract more young people - both male and female to courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
There have also been individual initiatives.
Ingrid Gonnissen recently started the Young Potential Boost Camp project. It jump-start the careers of young females, whether they are final-year students or starters with an interest in ICT, by putting them in touch with a mentor from the industry.
In Brussels, Yes She Can is an initiative by Lola Wajskop and Lola Dasmki that aims to promote gender diversity in Engineering studies. And Microsoft recently invited all employees to bring their daughters to the office to introduce them to the diversity of ICT.
Every little helps.