In all EU Member States, women are underrepresented in the labour market. In 2017, the gender employment gap amounted to 11.6 percentage points across the EU, with a 76.9% employment rate for men and 65.3% for women. To reach the Europe 2020 target of a 75% employment rate for both women and men, particular attention needs to be devoted to the labour market participation of women.
Today, 90% of the jobs require digital skills, and there are not enough skilled people to occupy these jobs. More men than women have good ICT skills and are employed in digital jobs. That is why Women4IT will investigate the ICT skills of 1,000 women and train 700 of them based on the customised needs of employers and the opportunities provided by them to test new digital jobs. The project, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, benefits from a €2.7 million grant, from which Malta benefitted €346,672, and runs from September 2018 until August 2021.
Women4IT´s aim is to develop digital competences and thereby, the employability of young women (15 – 29 years of age) at risk of exclusion from the labour market, as well as to provide innovative solutions to increase the number of young women in ICT careers and women participating in the digital economy. The project will mainly target unemployed young women, women without targeted education, women in after maternity leave and women coming from low income/disadvantaged families.
The initiative will pursue its goals through awareness raising, skills assessment, innovative partnerships with employers, through the development of a new online employability profiling tool, and through training and guidance towards employment in digital jobs.
In phase 1 of the project, a study was conducted among employers and stakeholders, to analyse skills shortages/mismatches as well as to identify digital job profiles that will be in demand by employers in the near future, as well as their contribution to the employability of young women. Internet of Things, Mobile Services and Cloud Technologies resulted in the most used technologies utilised by the participating organisations. Moreover, the study findings show that in the coming five years Solution Designer, Developer and Digital Media Specialist will be job profiles mostly in demand.
Opening the event, the Hon. Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation remarked that, ‘As a country we have moved a lot within the digital space becoming now a main point of reference, yet we are still lagging behing in women participation. If addressed now, the digital sector could be the first walk where we could see women on par with men’.
The Hon. Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue, said that this project is a significant one in which Malta is partnering with a number of other countries, including Norway, which is the largest donor country within the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms. He said that the amount of Norwegian funds have increased from €3 million to €8 million in this programming period, and are focusing on reducing socio-economic disparities in Malta. “The programme will help us to give digital skills to young women as part of our holistic plan to decrease the number of school leavers and continue with programme of retraining, reskilling, and upskilling of the Maltese workforce,” he said.
Women working in the digital sector contributed to a panel discussion with the theme, ‘Increasing the number of women in digital careers’, which focused on topics such as: where is Malta lagging in attracting females to take up STEM subjects; what can be done by industry to proactively address the gender gap; and work-life balance. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Maria Brown.
In a message Her Excellency, President Emeritus, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, stressed that myths such as when girls are perceived as not having an aptitude for technical subjects, must be countered, and girls must be mentored to see themselves as able to further their education in ICT-related subjects so as to succeed and to pursue a career in ICT. “Real challenges such as work-life balance; segregation of ICT jobs with males being better-paid; an existing male-dominated environment; the lack of role models and a real gender pay gap all need to be tackled head on in order to address disparity.”
Closing the event, Ms Dana Farrugia, CEO Tech.MT stressed that although the success and fast evolution of our digital economy is satisfactory, the risk of exclusion is real, and it must be ensured that no one remains on the outside looking in on technological evolution. “It is encouraging to see the Government fully committed to reducing the digital divide and organisations coming together today to support this collaborative framework. Thanks to this commitment we can ensure that women and young girls are truly allowed to decide about their future and regain their destiny in their own hands,” she concluded.
Women4IT is a multi-stakeholder partnership funded by the EEA Grants and the Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment. The project is developed by 9 partners from across Europe and various sectors. It will be implemented in 7 countries: Malta; Greece; Ireland; Latvia; Lithuania; Romania and Spain, and is supported by two expert partners: The European Centre for Women and Technology – Norway, and DIGITAL EUROPE – Belgium.
- Times of Malta: The launch of Women4IT
- Business Today: Malta could eradicate digital sector glass ceiling
- Business Malta: Malta launches EU-funded Women4IT project
- TVM: €350,000 in funds for 700 women to obtain digital skills within next two years
- Live News Malta: Launch of ‘Women4IT’ initiative – a European funded project aimed to increase vulnerable young women in the digital agenda