Across all fields in 2014 and 2018, from undergraduates to mid-career academics at Level C, women made up 40–60% of people at each level. That means the overall academic gender profile at those levels falls within our acceptable range of at least 40% men, 40% women and 20% people of any gender.

However, in disciplines like engineering, the proportion of men never dropped below 75%. This paints a very different picture to the overall data.

In this post, we’re putting the spotlight on Information Technology (IT) in recognition of the 10th anniversary of Girls in ICT Day on the 22nd of April 2021. Held on the fourth Thursday in April each year, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) uses this day to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women in the world’s fastest growing sector.

A four-line chart comparing the relative percentage of male and female IT students and academic staff by level of seniority. In both years, Level A academic staff had the highest female representation (around 40%). Female representation was around 20 to 30% for all other levels.
Figure 1. Comparison of the gender profile of Australian university staff and students in information technology in 2014 and 2018. Source data: Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) Higher Education Statistics.

Based on the scissor graph above, it’s immediately obvious that IT is a male-dominated discipline, with the proportion of men never falling below 60%. There’s very little change between the 2014 and 2018 data, but there are slight improvements in female representation amongst postgraduates and at Level B, and a small decline at Level C.

Interestingly, the proportion of women at Level A is double the proportion of female undergraduates, but there is a significant drop-off beyond these levels.

This decline mirrors the overall picture, where female representation decreases from Level B onwards. However, the spike in female representation at Level A seems unique to IT—the proportion of women at junior levels remains very consistent when all disciplines are considered (Figure 2).

A four-line chart comparing the relative percentage of male and female university students and academic staff at various seniority levels in 2014 and 2018. Women make up about 40% of undergraduate students up to Level B staff, but from Level C onwards, the proportion of staff who are female decreases to about 30% for academic staff Above Level C. The decline in female representation at Level C and above is about 3% smaller in 2018 than it was in 2014.
Figure 2. Changes in gender profile of Australian university staff and students between 2014 and 2018 across all Fields of Education (for students) and Academic Organisational Units (for staff). Source data: Higher Education Statistics, Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE).

This suggests that women are taking up postgraduate study and early career academic roles in IT, but face gendered workplace barriers that prevent them from reaching senior academic positions. We need to do more to stem the loss of women between Levels A and B in IT.

While you’re here, check out our Q&A with Dr Arti Agrawal, Director of the UTS Women in Engineering and IT Program. In the interview, Arti talks about the program’s initiatives for girls and women at all stages in their trajectory – from primary school through high school and university, all the way to industry professionals and professors.

For more activities and ways to get girls involved in IT, take a look at ITU’s toolkit for organising a Girls in ICT event.