Cracking the Gender Code: Getting Women Involved in Information Technology

June 28th, 2013 | Articles, Job Search | 2 Comments »

women in information technologyLook 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

Image courtesy of naezmi via Flickr

2 Responses to “Cracking the Gender Code: Getting Women Involved in Information Technology”

  1. Kyle Eggleston says:

    Fortunately, I cannot relate to this article. My girlfriend studied Computer Science at NIU, and got hired by Valueclick company right out of school.

    I think the decline in technical majors for females has a lot to do with all the horror stories that circulate about tech-related jobs (especially the stories that come from women themselves). Tech jobs are VERY demanding and aggressive… more so than college. Not to say women cannot deal with these things (they can), but many of them certainly don’t expect it.

    This is how free enterprise works – if you like an industry or trade, then you pursue it. Just because women don’t makeup 50% of the entire job force, doesn’t mean there’s a problem to fix.

  2. Kevin Withers says:

    Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for your comment. There is a lot of speculation about why women aren’t more involved in IT fields, which isn’t as much a problem as it is an interesting phenomenon. What I find most compelling are the number of IT positions that are opening up in the coming years combined with the decreasing amount of women pursuing them. With more and more women becoming the primary money-makers in households it makes sense to assume that they would be targeting industries that are experiencing hiring booms. Yet so many women refuse to enter this industry.

    I am glad that your girlfriend was able to find a job so quickly. Thanks again for your insight.

    Kevin Withers

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