Women wanted in Prince Edward Island's IT world

Teresa Wright
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Information technology industry looking at creative ways to attract women into considering a career

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Egmont MP speaks during a news conference in Charlottetown Thursday where she announced funding for a project by the Innovation and Technology Association of Prince Edward Island. 

A shortage of women in information technology in P.E.I. has led the industry to look at creative new ways to attract women to consider a career in IT.

“For some reason, it’s just always been kind of a guy thing,” says Margaret Gallant, HR co-ordinator for the Innovation and Technology Association of P.E.I. (ITAP).

Currently, only 25 per cent of the 2,400 total Islanders employed in the IT sector are female.

Daniel Lazaratos, president of ITAP, said the industry must do more to attract women because there are vacancies IT companies in P.E.I. are finding difficult to fill.

“At our IT job fair that we run in March there are typically 100-plus open positions for hiring and most of them go unfilled because there is a gap in the folks that come in looking for jobs versus the criteria that we’re looking for. It’s an issue.”

That’s why ITAP is launching a new project to prepare women for leadership roles in the technology sector. The 36-month project aims to increase recruitment, retention and advancement of women in Prince Edward Island’s IT sector.

It will create a women information technology leaders group to support women’s professional development. Human resource practices will be addressed through an industry-driven Women in IT Roundtable which will document and share best practices with technology employers.

“To address this (shortage) as a sector, we need to go back to basics, we need to reach out to young people at very early stages making technology available, interesting and attractive,” Lazaratos said.

Gallant said the mention of IT usually brings to mind the video gaming industry, but there are many other career paths and opportunities.

“People think if you can’t draw and you can’t game, there’s no place for me. When in reality there are lots of places,” she said.

“It’s just about building awareness of what’s available because there are so many opportunities.”

ITAP is receiving $276,865 from the federal government for this initiative to attract more women into technology fields in P.E.I.

“Women in P.E.I. and across Canada have the knowledge, expertise and talent to excel in every sector,” said Egmont MP Gail Shea during a recent funding announcement for the initiative.

“This project will address the gender gap in the technology sector where skilled workers are very much in demand and strengthen opportunities for women to advance.”

Organizations: ITAP

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Recent comments

  • IT Lady
    January 10, 2014 - 02:40

    As a female with more then enough qualifications for many of the positions Daniel Lazaratos claims are out there, I would like the general public to know that they are not filled by women like myself because I am not single and under the age of 24. Sex has nothing to do with IT, ages certainly does, when it comes to being hired.

  • Exiled Islander
    January 09, 2014 - 13:22

    I am female and have worked in IT for over 20 years, most of that time with the federal government in/near Ottawa. I have loads of experience and expertise, and excellent performance reviews and references. But trying to get an IT job in PEI was simply not possible. I was told up front by the top managers that they would not hire anyone "living away", despite the fact that I AM an Island girl. They reserved all positions for people already on the Island, and there was nothing I could do about it. Even though there were NOT people with my qualifications, it was a closed door. Good arrangement for those living there, but very disappointing for those of us wanting to come home.

  • It's good to be ::1
    January 09, 2014 - 11:46

    I think what this article identifies is that there are in fact two gaps; the most prominent being between genders, and the second gap between available jobs and qualified workers. While the first definitely needs to be addressed, ITAP also needs to explore how they can better prepare candidates to become qualified for those jobs. Most IT jobs require that a candidate possess industry certifications before they'll even be considered for an interview. The crux is that these industry certifications require experience in that field to obtain them. The exams for these certs largely rely on practical knowledge and many of their questions require a critical/troubleshooting mindset to be answered correctly. Not an easy task if you're relying on theory alone. While not to discredit ITAP's efforts to engage potential female IT workers, there's obviously a cross gender gap in qualified workers vs jobs that won't be fixed by targeting just one group. They should invest money into apprenticeship programs wherein an employer could take someone on to develop work experience and practical knowledge, so when it comes time to write their certification exam, they'll have a better shot at obtaining the qualifications being demanded of them.

  • IT Guy
    January 09, 2014 - 11:32

    Basic flaw in plan. Most IT openings not filled are for uber-specialized skills, not general IT work. If the openings were general IT, then they would be able to be filled. Training has to match the need, not train in the bare rudiments and wipe your hands.