When you think of IT professionals, you probably imagine a man. Why? Well, there’s a running stereotype that men do that sort of work, but it’s not based on fiction. The gender gap in information technology has been present, but people have been working more and more to alleviate this discrepancy. So how bad is the gap? Here’s a look at what’s going on for women in the IT industry.
What are the numbers?
The lack of women in tech-related jobs probably goes all the way back to college. According to a Computing Research Association report, 18% of computer science and computer engineering degrees were awarded to women in the 1993/1994 school year. Compare that to only 12% of the degrees being awarded to women in the 2006/2007 school year.
From there, the statistics don’t get much better. In 2010, women made up 22% of computer programmers and 20.9% of computer software engineers.According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women hold 25% of IT jobs. In a report from Women in Technology, 61% of the women who responded had more than 10 years of experience, but only 26% reached senior management level, according to the study.
What’s going on, and how can it change?
It could be said that sexism is uncommon in the IT industry, but there are still examples of how women are treated differently from men. For example, an article in The New York Times leads with Candace Fleming, who was told by a venture capitalist that if she had a business card, all they would say on it is “Mom.” She had an M.B.A from Harvard and had held a management position at Hewlett-Packard.
Even if it might not be highly prevalent, people are working to fix that negative perception of women and balance the gender ratio in the IT industry. The same article in The New York Times mentions that organizations are striving to increase awareness and mentor women entrepreneurs as well as try to connect them to investors.
At an April Collaborate 11 Oracle user conference, members of a panel discussion suggested that mentors could play a major role in assisting women in advancing their IT careers, according to Computerworld. Elizabeth Stark — the founder of the Open Video Alliance — holds a similar opinion, as expressed in this Huffington Post piece. Stark was paired with an older male computer science professor and surrounded by men when she was considering majoring in CS. She ended up picking social science.
Stark said if she had had a mentor that encouraged her to pursue the CS degree, she probably would have chosen differently. She suggests that having more female mentors who can be role models for people pursuing IT-related majors so the students will enter the workforce with the perception that both genders actively participate in the industry.
What are some recent wins?
These stats and anecdotes shouldn’t make the whole landscape look bleak. Women have come a long way in the IT industry, and there have been some major accomplishments achieved in recent years. IT World highlighted several women who’ve held executive positions and discussed their major impact on the IT industry we know today.
Change is happening in other parts of the world, too. ComputerWeekly reported on a study by the Chartered Management Institute that shows women who are junior IT executives in the UK are being paid more than men holding the same positions.
But even individuals have been successful in making a change. According to a Forbes article, President of Harvey Mudd College Dr. Maria Klawe helped increase the percentage of women computer science majors at her college by making recruiting materials more female-friendly, revising the curriculum, and instituting the participation of women at national conferences concerning technology, among other changes.
While there are still some challenges for women to overcome in regard to hiring, pay, and perception in the IT industry, huge strides have been made, and women are typically treated well at their IT jobs. It’s important to point out the discrepancies, however, so that they’re made known and can be changed. The industry will hopefully continue to shift in a more gender-balanced fashion so that women can have an equally gratifying experience as men.