Some important people think IT careers need a makeover.
Microsoft is touting them to young women, as is the European Union, which earlier this year announced plans to make IT careers more appealing to women. According to eWeek.com:
The second annual DigiGirlz event, held on March 26 in Islandia, N.Y., was attended by more than 150 11th grade girls from seven schools on Long Island. Presenters from all walks of IT gave presentations on career planning and job roles in areas from law to health care, the public sector and security companies. Women at the top of the field doled out unconventional career advice to girls in the hopes of dispelling the notion that one must be a geek to work with technology.
By squashing IT’s ‘geeky’ image and giving it a sexier sheen, the logic goes, more women will be drawn to it, helping stave off a shortage of workers.
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, 1 million computer and information-related jobs are expected to be added to the U.S. workforce by 2014, but U.S. universities will only graduate enough candidates with computer science bachelor’s degrees to fill 50 percent of those jobs.
Where are the rest of the qualified candidates going to come from? Since women only account for 26 percent of tech workers, according to NCWIT, could the untapped female population help meet the projected shortfall of workers?
Addressing the Problem
According to NCWIT, the number of women earning computer science degrees dipped from 37 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2007. With fewer women studying technology, they’re less likely to end up in IT careers–right?
An Ohio University study of women working in IT found about half had bachelor’s degrees in nontechnical fields such as humanities and social sciences. What are other factors that determine whether women end up in IT fields? What about the role of teachers, parents and mentors? Should they do more to encourage women–from an early age–that technology isn’t just for boys? How important are male role models?
Two-thirds of the women in the OU study said encouragement from men in their lives–fathers, husbands, teachers, friends or male co-workers–greatly influenced their career choices.
What about employers? How much should they do in terms of outreach and partnerships with educational institutions (such as the Microsoft effort noted above) to encourage young women to explore tech careers?
Since tech jobs may require long hours, employers might consider offering flexible work arrangements for women with children and busy family schedules.
All interested parties–educators, parents, mentors, employers–should strive to bring gender parity to the IT arena. Not because every occupation should have an equal number of men and women, but because female input into how technology is designed, used and implemented will make it more well-rounded. As more women join the IT ranks, they’ll serve as role models and sources of encouragement for future female workers, and so on …
Ultimately, wouldn’t a gender-balanced IT workforce that produces more competitive products make us a stronger player on the global stage?
It’s worth noting that IT jobs are among the best-paying and fastest-growing, as I reported earlier this year. Here’s a smattering of IT jobs and median salaries for individuals with one-four years of experience, according to PayScale data:
- Applications Systems Analyst: $52,103
- Chief Technology Officer: $94,567
- Computer Operations Supervisor: $41,874
- Database Manager:$42,728
- Network Engineer: $53,027
- National Center for Women & Information Technology (statistics on women and IT)
- Techie Trade Groups Battle A Stubborn Stereotype (The Wall Street Journal)