Only 10% Of The Workforce In Data Centres Are Women

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Only 10% Of The Workforce In Data Centres Are Women
Credit: © Reuters.

The data centre sector is at the heart of an increasingly digital world, and South Africa is witnessing a rush of construction of data centres in an otherwise stagnant economy. However, without diversity and greater representation of women in its workforce, meeting the growing demands of future digital lifestyles will become ever more challenging.

It is also incumbent upon data center owners and operators — whose industry is responsible for between 1% and 2% of global energy consumption — to achieve sustainable, green, and efficient ICT operations within their sector. Energy efficiency and gender equality are both clear objectives of the 2030 Agenda Globally for the UN. It sees gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls as serving as a catalyst for sustainable development, ending poverty and protecting the planet.

“Women in ICT careers have made significant progress in recent years, but there remains a significant gender gap.” says Dr Jan Mentz, Academic Dean, Belgium Campus iTversity

“Women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs relative to men who hold 81%. In leadership positions, women make up 24%. This gap worsens in the data centre field: less than 10% of the workforce in the data center industry consists of women and almost one in four companies have no women in their system design or operations according to the Uptime research. “

Consequently, creating sustainable and green data centres is a top global priority. Recent stats suggest that half of existing engineering staff will retire by 2025, yet the number of staff needed to run the world’s data centres will grow from around two million to nearly 2.3 million by 2025, according to the Uptime Institute. Like many other technical sectors, according to a 2021 Uptime Institute report the data centre industry is skewed in favor of men.

More than three-quarter of respondent data centre operators answered that their workforce was around 10% women or less. Given the lack of female representation and the skills deficit – the answer is obvious. It stands to reason that low female representivity is a massive limitation on the potential of South Africa to be a world focus of data centres.

The ICT sector has expressed its desire to diversify, but progress to date has been slow with no single, easy way to achieve this.

Mentz continues “To inspire young women to pursue studies in the field of ICT, it is necessary to start at grassroots level – as early as the classroom.

“By providing them with the confidence to study technical subjects and carry their studies through to matric and post-school education institutions, more female students come to view tech as a natural career progression after graduating with ICT degrees.”

Yet women do well in the sector: WIRED conducted a confidential survey in the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) on women in tech in which women identified three factors from a list as the main drivers behind their seeking a career in tech: technology is the future, always learning in this field, and good compensation/it is profitable. This suggests a desire to work in a relevant, impactful field, while seeking constant personal improvement along with good pay is important to women.

Furthermore, nine out of 10 would be “very likely” to recommend a career in tech to a friend or relative, and over 8 in 10 agreed that their companies (and presumably the whole industry) would benefit from a gender-equal workforce. Almost half agreed that the gender pay gap no longer exists.

The time is right for a campaign to encourage young women and girls to choose STEM subjects at school and pursue careers in those subjects. Building and investing in the data centre workforce of the future is necessary. Diversity and inclusion are core to establishing a strong, resilient, and adaptable cadre of skilled professionals able to take the world of data centres in a greener direction. According to the WIRED report, most respondents agreed that companies need to have initiatives in place to support and encourage more women to enter technology-related jobs.

Students need support and encouragement to pursue STEM subjects from an early age by creating more training programmes, including mentoring and job shadowing, and offering flexible working hours.

“The industry must do more to inspire young talent, especially gender and race diversity, to take up STEM subjects from an early age. The industry has a vital role to play from engaging students and raising awareness of all the exciting career paths in STEM”, Mentz concludes

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