Australia is facing a serious shortage of skilled ICT professionals and is particularly interested in recruiting more women into the industry as well as encouraging more girls to study the subject.

Overseas skilled professionals have long regarded Australia as a source of job opportunities and a new report reveals just how important it is to encourage more women into the sector.

Women ICTThe report by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) shows that, at a time when Australia is facing a serious shortage of skilled ICT professionals, women represent only 28% of the ICT workforce compared to 43% in the wider professional workforce.

The report also says that Australia needs 100,000 additional ICT people by the end of the decade.

Assistant Minister for Science, Karen Andrews, said the Government recognised the importance of developing the talents of all Australians, including women, to ensure the country remained competitive.

"The ICT sector is particularly crucial because it underpins everything we do at work, school, university, at home and in public spaces. It gives our industries the tools to operate and prosper in the digital economy, the single greatest driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth," said Andrews.

The ACS report, The Promise of Diversity - Gender Equality in the ICT Profession, says that achieving gender diversity would require greater participation by girls and women in ICT in schools, the vocational and higher education sector and in the workforce.

The Report examines the entire life cycle of female participation in ICT. It focusses on three key areas that must be addressed if we are to achieve greater gender equity in ICT. These areas are female participation in the workforce and the school education sector and encouraging women into the vocational and higher education sectors.

The report notes that addressing the barriers will require a mix of short and long term initiatives, as well as genuine commitment by employers, educators and governments to tackling the issues.

The ACS argues there needs to be a fundamental and urgent change to the cultural mind set and attitudes to women in the workforce. This requires genuine, committed, outcome focused leadership.

The ACS recommends initiatives aimed at improving the self-confidence of girls in their own abilities in maths and science, creating a school environment which actively encourages girls to pursue a digital career, introducing a mandatory Digital Technologies Curriculum, and developing a marketing programme aimed at changing perceptions of what a digital career can offer.

"It's clear that, in Australia, women are significantly underrepresented in the critical ICT profession. We must urgently address the ongoing gender imbalance in the workforce. If we get it right there will be a substantial economic dividend for our nation," said ACS President, Brenda Aynsley.

"We need to market far better to young female students. This must include providing them with accurate and contemporary advice on the jobs of the future and the importance of digital skills in that future," Aynsley continued. "We also need the ICT profession to work closely with teachers, parents and career advisors, the key influencers of student career choices. And we need to encourage passionate, successful ICT female role models to be ambassadors for our profession and to inspire our next generation of ICT female professionals.

"We are committed to supporting the expansion and development of the ICT sector and ICT capability as the platform for the digital economy. It's not simply about gender equality. It's about ensuring all have the capability and the opportunity to contribute to the nation's future, to realise their potential and to enjoy fulfilling careers."