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Women in IT: EU4Youth study highlights challenges and opportunities in Belarus

December 19, 2019

A round table discussion on the results of a labour market analysis and gender study conducted as part of the ‘EU4Youth: Fostering Potential for Greater Employability’ project was held on 9 December at the Belarusian Red Cross  (BRC) training centre. It was attended by representatives of government bodies, IT companies, public organisations and media.

Labour market research helps to understand where best to focus efforts to tackle youth unemployment and help young people find their first jobs and stay in the regions.

The results of the EU4Youth study on ‘Access to the labour market in the high-tech sector: young women in Mahiliou and Babruisk’ are significant in highlighting the issues related to women’s employment in this fast-growing sector and how to solve them.  The share of women in the sector stands at 25%, and is growing each year.

The study was conducted by the Gender Perspectives international public association, and focused on 100 young women in Mahiliou and Babruisk, half of whom already work in the IT sector, with the other half studying in state-owned higher education institutions or attending IT courses.

“The objective was to look at employment from the perspectives of young women’s vulnerability, focusing exactly on the segment where women are under-represented today – namely the IT sector,” said Iryna Alkhouka, head of the organisation.

The research results were presented to the round table by Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya, the scientific supervisor of the research. “We cannot extrapolate this data to the entire sector, but we are able to assess major views and positions,” she explained, outlining as below the main factors attracting women to the IT sector:

  • Financial conditions - 81.1%;
  • Flexible schedules - 74.3%;
  • Intellectual work - 52.7%;
  • Professional demand - 41.9%;
  • Corporate culture - 40.3%

“The rapid development of this sector is attractive and challenging for women at the same time. This is because most often the care of the family rests with women and they have a double load at home and at work,” said Vadalazhskaya.

Natalia Puchko and Tamara Butove from the Belarusian IT company IBA also participated in the discussion. They highlighted the significant lack of staff in their sector and said that if a male or female applicant is a strong professional, gender is not taken into account. On the other hand, top managers are almost always men in IT, which means that the career ceiling for women really exists.

The follow-up to the broader 2018-2019 labour market analysis and BRC gender policy in prevention of sexploitation and violence were discussed in a second round table.

The 2018-2019 labour market research took place in three project countries and included a number of recommendations. As a result, entrepreneurship and personal competence development courses have since been developed; special centres serving as a link between employers and job seekers were launched in Mahiliou and Homiel; and special programmes for people with disabilities are being implemented.

Participants of the round table noted that the active development of the IT sector provides an opportunity to encourage young people to stay and work in their regions. However, students and young professionals face the problem that employers mostly want experienced employees. Therefore the objective of projects like ‘EU4Youth: Fostering Potential for Greater Employability’ is to facilitate the development of skills and social relations to secure advantages in the labour market, and to improve entrepreneurship to encourage young people to create their own businesses and to work for themselves.

EU4Youth: Fostering Potential for Greater Employability helps young people from socially alienated groups to find employment by building social relations, skill development and promoting entrepreneurship. The project is funded by the EU and is implemented in Belarus, Georgia and Armenia by the Red Cross offices of these countries with the support of Danish Red Cross and in partnership with the Danish Red Cross Youth and Danish consulting company CONNECTIO, together with government bodies and non-governmental organisations.

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