Cracking the Gender Code: Getting Women Involved in Information TechnologyJune 28th, 2013 | Articles, Job Search | 2 Comments »
Look around your office; what do you see? If you are surrounded primarily by male coworkers it is safe to assume that you work in an information technology related field. There has been a weak presence of women in the IT field since the industry started booming in the 1970’s, and like a bad joke about the inability of women and technology to mix, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
So why are woman shying away from the IT fields? Is it inherent gender differences that push analytical men towards writing code and nurturing women towards social based careers? Or is it that the IT field has become an all-boys club where women are simply brushed aside?
Women don’t pursue tech positions
According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of women graduating from college with a degree in computer science has been on a steady decline since 1984, with only 13% of computer science degrees being awarded to women. Despite this decline, women have now surpassed men in college enrollment. According to a 2011 study, 53.4% of college students are now female, a gender gap that is predicated to widen in the next decade.
With major shortages expected in the IT field through 2020, it should be the case that men, and especially women, are migrating towards this growing field, but the number of available tech jobs are set to almost double the number of men and women graduating with computer science degrees each year.
Tech companies need to open up
It is not only women who seem unmotivated to pursue jobs in IT fields. Many tech companies seem to have even abandoned advertising for diverse talent from the other 51% of the world’s population – even to the point that many job postings for programmers and developers go as far as specifying “he shall” in the job description.
The Harvey Nash Group reports that out of the 166 tech companies that replaced their CEOs in 2012, only 6 were women. Although 40% of women are now considered the primary bread winners of American families, it is still rare to see women like Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO and President, and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, taking on roles at the top of tech companies.
Some have answered the call
Mayer recognizes that there is much room for growth in the industry. In an interview with the MAKERS, she notes that “There’s just huge growth and opportunity. The fact that the technology is now so tangible in our everyday lives, I think, will inspire a lot more women to go into technology — and I’m really heartened by that.”
On Martha Stewart’s “Women with Vision”, Mayer gave advice to women who wish to enter the IT field, advising women to “Find something you’re passionate about and just love.” As more women are steeped in a constantly connected society, where computer technology is no longer reserved for hackers and gamers, women who are passionate about technology will see the benefit of getting involved in the industry.
“Passion is really gender-neutralizing,” says Mayer.
There are several organizations that are making a concerted effort towards getting women involved in tech careers. The non-profit group Iridescent has offered a $10,000 prize for a 12 week competition that challenged middle and high school aged girls to create an application that would solve a problem in their community. This is an effective way of encouraging young woman to get involved in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) programs early on, essentially pushing them towards a field that is hopefully ready to accept them.
Some great information technology resources for women include:
http://www.womenintechnology.org/: This organization helps its female members advance their careers and network within IT fields, and provides a variety of other helpful resources and services.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/women: The White House website provides news, reports, and large library of resources for women that are involved in or looking to become involved in STEM careers.
By Kevin Withers