Jordan has bet big on the growth of its ICT sector, which contributes to around 12% of the GDP (Jordan Investment Commission). According to the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, Jordan is poised to become a regional hub for technology. Youth are increasingly drawn to tech-related fields in hopes of securing employment or starting their own businesses in the growing sector. Girls and women are no exception; projects such as Girls in Tech, SHETECHS Council, and EconoWin, are preparing young women for careers in ICT, but skills alone may not be enough.
Data collected by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for the 2015-2017 and 2016-2017 school years reveals that almost 1 in 10 female graduates from Jordanian universities obtain a degree in computer science, which is around the same ratio for male graduates. However, while more than half of Jordanian graduates from computer science majors are women, a fraction of them get an opportunity to work in the ICT sector. According to a survey conducted by Al-Manar project in 2017, fewer than one in five employees in the ICT sector is a woman
Educated Women Are More Likely To Beat the Odds and Snag an IT Job
Not all ICT sector jobs require high-level degrees and low-level jobs are still dominated by men. Educated women have better chances of being employed in the ICT sector. There is less than a 1 in 10 chance for a woman who is illiterate, has less than a secondary degree, or has a vocational training degree to be employed at a tech company. On the other hand, a woman’s chances of getting a job in the ICT sector are much higher if she is educated. There is a 1 in 7 chance for a woman to be employed if she has a diploma and 1 in 4 if she has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nevertheless, the number of female graduates with computer science degrees remains far more than those employed in the sector.
So, where do the women who do get a job in tech end up? According to the survey, 1 out of 10 positions in software development and 1 out of 20 positions in technical operations are occupied by women. Women are least represented in occupations related to network and infrastructure, IT support and surprisingly, marketing and sales. This data shows that women are, in fact, more likely to work in jobs that require more technical knowledge than less. According to the survey, most companies require fresh graduates to have a working knowledge of programming languages, application and web services, web development, networking, application interface design, application programming platforms and operating systems.
Tech Companies Say They Do Not Have Jobs for a Flood of New Graduates, Admit Gender Bias
The survey also investigated potential reasons for this gender gap. The survey included 136 companies and revealed that more than half of the companies in the ICT sector reported that the gender gap is a result of a lack of vacancies at their institutions. However, 1 in 4 companies stated that the nature of the job does not suit women, and 1 in 14 companies are unwilling to hire women.
In an interview with Tamara Abdel-Jaber, Co-Founder of Palma Consulting and Co-Founder of Women in Business Arabia, she mentioned that “while employers cite many ‘excuses’ for not hiring females; the ICT sector, globally, is one of the leading industries that are offering the flexibility that women are looking for.” In the Jordanian economy, ICT is considered a leading sector and should position itself as the leader when it comes to employing women, according to Abdel-Jaber. Women’s attention to detail and their ability to work remotely when needed must be leveraged.
Women-Led Tech Companies More Likely To See the Value of Hiring Women
Shahla Matar, Managing Partner at Tanasuk Technologies, stated that, from her experience as an employer, women are highly skilled and very qualified for the openings they have. More than half of her company’s employees are women, and all members of the executive team are women. Her company worked out a system whereby they outsource some of their operations to qualified coders and developers, who work remotely. This helps address some of the social, cultural, and economic barriers that women face when they decide to enter the market. Some of these issues include transportation, childcare fees, and social barriers to getting a job outside of their home. Matar said this is because women she employs highly appreciate the flexibility and the perks that jobs in this sector provide them with so they overperform.
Despite the general focus on integrating more women into the sector, and women’s educational attainment and willingness to join it, some companies still prefer to hire men.
The Jordanian government, based on an Oxford Business Group report, continues to support the advancement of its ICT sector through national strategies, support for innovation and entrepreneurship hubs, an increase in the availability of e-government services, as well as the enhancement of the physical and digital infrastructure. There is a gender component in the strategy.
The government also attracted a number of global tech companies to Jordan, such as Amazon and Expedia, and established itself as a tech-outsourcing hub. A labor market study for fresh graduate employment in the ICT sector in Jordan recommends focusing on ensuring that computer science graduates acquire both soft and technical skills and competencies to increase their employability and enrich the workforce. International companies have gender equality policies and also look for diverse skill sets, which could help women land jobs in these companies.