There’s still a glass ceiling for women in ICT, says UTech graduate
Despite more women pursuing education in ICT, IT and network specialist turned accountant Sandrene Brown Rhooms says there is still a glass ceiling.
Brown Rhooms shared that there were at least 20 female graduates in her University of Technology class of 2014. However, of the women who graduated from the computer science programme of study, only two are employed in the ICT field.
According to Brown Rhooms, after graduating she had every intention of working in the field, even landing a job as an IT associate with the Ministry of National Security.
However, the job of IT associate was never to be for Brown Rhooms who noted that shortly after accepting the job offer, she was placed at the Jamaica Police Federation, where she became immersed in the world of accounting.
“Funny enough, the job I was actually accepted for was in the Ministry of National Security. I was to be an IT Associate but when they placed me at the Jamaica Police Federation a year later, that is where the discord happened,” explained Brown Rhooms.
“I ended up working with the accountant that was there, because they were short staffed. So, I basically got grabbed and thrown into the accounting world,” Brown Rhooms added.
The Portland native shared that it wasn’t that she had hung up her hat on the ICT sector, noting that she continued to apply for jobs in the field, eventually arriving at the conclusion that there was a preference for male applicants.
“At the time of me applying, the only conclusion I could have come up with is that men were preferred for the jobs, in those years. Because it’s not a case where I didn’t continue applying for jobs in IT. I continued applying; I’ve done several interviews. I have been called in to do second phases of interviews, but nothing ever came to fruition in terms of me landing a permanent job,” she said.
Interestingly enough, Brown Rhooms, who is currently employed at a software development company, remains in the accounting department.
She explained that the issue for women is not so much an unwillingness to work long hours or competency, noting that the barriers are primarily gender-related.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with long hours, because for the few females who actually went as far as doing a degree in this field, we are aware of the long hours. We’re aware of what it takes. I don’t think it’s any different, because even now in the accounting world, my job isn’t just a nine to five, and then the accounting stops there. I work extended hours,” Brown Rhooms said.
“I think it just boils down to the fact of being a female versus being a male. And I’ve spoken to several other persons in the IT space, even now being the VP of Finance for the Jamaica Computing Society, now known as the Jamaica Technological and Digital Alliance, and it is still a struggle for us as females within the ICT sector,” she added.
Brown Rhooms noted that she believes traditional gender roles, particularly child rearing, contributes to the reluctance to hire women in the industry.
However, she notes that the times are changing, in part due to the sheer volume of job openings which has forced recruiters to take a more merit-based approach to hiring.
This more merit-based approach, Brown Rhooms says has enabled women to at least get their foot in the door and will help other women to see ICT as a viable career path.
Brown Rhooms continues to pursue further studies in IT, having recently completed a network administration course, adding that she’s building up her arsenal in the event that an opportunity should arise for her to return to her desired career path.
A US study found that women working in science, engineering and technology fields were 45 per cent more likely than their male colleagues to quit within a year of taking a job primarily linked to issues associated with equality and equity, including the gender wage gap.