IT needs more diversity

In this month’s bumper Gitex issue, we present the results of our ACN IT Salary Survey.

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IT needs more diversity (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 20, 2013

In this month’s bumper Gitex issue, we present the results of our ACN IT Salary Survey. The survey, which ran online on from July to September is intended to provide an insight into salaries, job satisfaction and other employment issues that effect IT professionals in the region.

For a first run of the survey, we had a good response from across various industries and job functions, and I would like to thank all those who gave their time to complete the survey and to circulate the survey link to their colleagues and associates. Over time we aim to increase the number of respondents as far as possible, and also to focus more on the issues that matter  for the region. It’s a small start — the InformationWeek survey in the US samples 14,000 IT professionals each year — but we would like to build the ACN survey into a baseline piece of research for the industry. If you have any feedback on the survey, please let me know so that it can be refined and improved upon for future editions.

With regards to the results, the survey shows up a few stand out points. Salaries in the Gulf appear to be on a par with the rest of the world, and a good proportion of staff either got a raise or were able to increase their salary through a job move. The survey respondents were generally happy with their jobs, although quite a few would like to get paid more.

One of the stand out issues highlighted by the survey was the gender imbalance in IT. It is an issue that is getting a lot of attention worldwide, and although it is perhaps not on the agenda so much in the Middle East, it is definitely something that I feel the industry should be taking a proper look at addressing.

Diversity in the workplace is important, because it increases the range of perspectives and approaches, and brings new skill sets to the industry. With the youthful demographic in the region, the IT industry also needs to do its part in creating opportunities for new graduates. In the Gulf, the education sector has made good first steps in encouraging young women to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, but the IT sector needs to make more effort so that not only are there jobs available for those women graduates, but that there is a working environment where they will feel comfortable and they have good prospects.

That’s not to say that the IT sector should abandon its meritocratic/technocratic bias, or that the cultural constraints of the region don’t create a significant barrier in the region to getting more women into long term careers in IT, rather than just filling a few junior roles before leaving for other sectors or to raise a family. The practicalities of family, and of gender mixing in the more conservative countries won’t be easily overcome, but there are practical steps that can be taken towards addressing the issue.

Mentoring schemes, working groups and so on, seem to be lacking in the Middle East, although it does seem that gender-based initiatives could be done in parallel with existing nationalisation efforts. Programs to get Gulf nationals into meaningful careers have been slow to get going, but are showing results — the same tactics should be encourage the female population of the region to join this most meritocratic industry — to not do so is a to a disservice to both to the IT sector and to women.

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