The recently concluded 2017 Women in IT awards saw women who have excelled in the IT field being recognized for their outstanding contribution to the Sri Lankan IT industry. Showcased by the Women in IT association of the Federation of IT Industries in Sri Lanka (FITIS), the awards ceremony was held on the 4th of November at INFOTEL.
The awards ceremony recognized the many different and important women contributors to IT in Sri Lanka. The categories awarded were Business and IT Leader of the Year, Security Champion of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, CIO of the Year, Educator/Trainer of the Year and Emerging Female Leader in IT. The winners of the evening were champions in their respective niches with inspiring stories of success.
Beyond the glitz of the ceremony, the awards speak to a great underlying cause. They are a means to encourage women, particularly the youth, to pursue IT for their higher education, as well as to support and retain those women who are already IT professionals. It also hopes to solve the impending problem that given the current growth of the IT industry and thereafter the increased demand for IT professionals in the country, the Sri Lankan IT industry would not be able to supply enough IT professionals to meet the demand. At the root of the problem, lies the perception that IT is not a woman’s field. Due to cultural stereotypes and familial pressures, fields such as medicine or engineering are more sought after. Another common misconception is that women cannot earn enough in the IT industry. Furthermore the promise and visibility of IT opportunities is not highlighted enough beyond Colombo and its suburbs.
Changing the mentality of society is not an easy task but with the heightened awareness of the potential for women IT professionals via incentives such as awards this becomes an easier one. At the same time, corporate IT organizations as well as organizing bodies such as FITIS are leading the way to increasing the awareness of IT as a major contributor to the economy which make it more promising to the female youth.
When it comes to women who are already in the IT industry, their problem lies in the feeling of insecurity in their jobs. This may arise as a result of women leaving work behind in the case of going on maternity leave or in some circumstances working fewer hours than their male counterparts in order to keep their family commitments. They may also fear that a male counterpart may get promoted over them in such cases. In this regard, all corporate IT organizations need to reevaluate their company practices to see what options they can offer women employees in order to balance both work and family life. This could be the introduction of facilities to work from home or part time, as well as daycare facilities and flexible hours. Furthermore increased awareness of the awards will serve as a reminder to those women in insecure phases that there are women who have persisted and excelled despite similar challenges.
Together with increased awareness, greater corporate responsibility and the continuation of the annual Women in IT awards, the Sri Lankan IT industry can make great strides in empowering and supporting women in IT.