Women and the Information Technology Industry: Where is the Attraction?
Opportunities in technology companies are fueling the economy, yet few women pursue them. A recent Pittsburgh Technology Council panel discussion revealed that there are many reasons for women's lack of interest in IT, as were personal priorities (Czetli, 2003). "It might be an issue of self-selection -- women might not be risk takers," said Robin Steif, chief financial officer of Maya Design. "It might also have something to do with the work/family issue, because entrepreneurs work way more than 40 hours per week."
Acknowledging that women seeking careers in technology industries faced barriers, there was no evidence that those roadblocks were any more significant than those encountered by minorities or even by men. "I think there is certainly a glass ceiling," said Joy Evans, a management consulting partner at Deloitte & Touche (Czetli, 2003). "But I tend to think of the business world as a pyramid which also limits everyone, including men, as you make your way to the top."
While one major issue was equality and judging people the same, the women on the panel said there were differences between the sexes when it comes to business thinking. However, they added that those differences should be seen as positives, enabling women to bring something new and different to the table. "There are differences, whether you want to believe it or not," Evans said (Czetli, 2003). "Men and women have a different thought process, and that is not a disadvantage. At different levels it gives us something to offer that may not be there."
The majority of the panel's speaker agreed that although women are increasingly working their way throughout the technology and business world, it is still a "man's world," requiring either men or women to change to succeed.
Experts are drawing the same conclusion they did years ago: Women still have to deal with a "good old boys" network keeping them from senior management's ranks (Weinstein, 2001). However, despite the persistence of this problem, the fact is that the overall career outlook for women in IT has improved a great deal the past few decades. Still, despite the great increase in the number of high-level positions now open to women in IT, few women seek the jobs.
The paper examines the under representation of women in IT, why females constitute such a small percentage of employment in the industry. Computer literacy is not the problem. Young girls do demonstrate high levels of computer literacy but that is not translating into interest in IT as a career. The industry has attracted an image of being a stereotypically male and drab industry, which is an unexciting career path for young women. It appears that teaching methods in IT are discouraging girls from pursuing further study in the IT area and there is a lack of information available to young students on what a career in technology means. The paper hypothesizes that there is more than one reason that women are not attracted to the IT industry, and pinpoints paths that could be explored to increase the numbers of girls in the industry.
This study was limited in that it concentrates on the findings of existing studies. As there is no empirical research, it is difficult to summarize a true opinion of why women are not attracted to IT jobs.
Definition of Terms
CIO-Chief Information Officer
CTO-Chief Technology Officer
Programmer -- an individual who writes programs
Software Engineer- a licensed professional engineer who is schooled and skilled in the application of engineering discipline to the creation of software.
There are all kinds of careers that have more women than men. More nurses and elementary school teachers are women. Many people mistakenly make the assumption that If women are not choosing careers in IT, perhaps it because they are choosing things that are better for them. This can be detrimental to the IT industry, which is currently lacking a significant female presence, as it is an assumption that is keeping women from entering the IT industry.
Importance of Study
If few women are in the positions of CIO, IT manager, software designer, engineer, or database administrator, it is difficult to find and honor women as leaders in those roles. That results in a lack of role models who might encourage women to pursue careers in technology, and the cycle is ongoing.
That cycle can be broken, but it will take work, and current statistics explain why. In the United States, women are 47% of the total U.S. workforce, yet they represent only one-quarter of the technology sector workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In parts of Europe, the numbers are even lower. Recent research suggests that in some Western European countries, women comprise less than 10% of the total IT workforce. These numbers are not changing. According to a study published in 2003 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), even though women are now as likely as men to receive a four-year college degree, less than a third of them are studying in a field that will prepare them for work in science, engineering, and information technology.
It is important for women to enter the world of IT for many reasons. Having technology skills opens doors to hundreds of thousands of well-paying positions. As Julie Basu, senior manager of JSP and XML midtier development at Oracle, says, "IT is an integral part of pretty much every industry, and in addition to good pay, it affords you intellectual stimulation."
In addition, business today is built on technology, and having knowledge and skills in technology means having power in today's corporations and enterprises. Finally, technology is a basic part of our daily lives. Technology today shapes us, just as we shape it, and women cannot and should not be kept out of the process of influencing and building the technology-based world of the future.
Chapter Two -- Literature Review
Information technology (IT) has become a major a potent force in transforming social, economic, and political life globally. Despite efforts to increase the number of women working in IT, the gender gap has only got wider in the industry (Carr, 2004). Recent statistics show that women hold less than one-quarter of IT jobs. Of the women who do chose to brave the male-dominated IT world, the majority choose project management roles over more technical positions such as programming, design or development.
Along with being outnumbered, women earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Of those female project managers, most have job titles at the lower end of the hierarchy, meaning they're more involved with coordination and administration than with making technical and business decisions.
It appears that recent initiatives to increase women's role in IT, such as school programs that try to get girls involved in math and science and organizations that promote networking among women in tech, just are not working. Stewart Coia, director of HCM practices at Parity, says companies that want to attract and retain women in IT roles need to take a different approach. Women simply are not attracted to careers in IT.
There are many reasons that women may avoid the IT reasons. For instance, women, who often bear more family responsibilities than men, typically value flexibility in the workplace. Therefore, unless companies offer benefits like flexible hours and the ability to work from a variety of locations, women will go elsewhere. These are things that are often missing in the upper echelons of IT positions.
However, IT companies that don't pursue female workers may be subjecting themselves to increasingly unbalanced teams. In the end, says Coia, IT is "wasting a tremendous resource. A large number of university graduates are women, but only a small percentage is going to the top in IT." That means they're going into other industries - and IT's could be missing out on a major portion of the educated population.
Many female and male writers including Sofia (1995), Wajcman (1991), Edge (1995) and MacKay (1995), argue that society largely shapes technological development and processes, and that the relationship between technology and society is a reciprocal one, an interaction in which technology and society are codependent (Davey, 1995). Similarly, gender and gender relations of power are a key part of the conception and design of communication technologies. Traditionally, science and technology have defined technologies in terms of male activities, male culture and male values. As a result, women's access is restricted. However, many studies have revealed that women are actively resisting entering technological fields as a result of the male values associated with it.
Women's alienation from technology can be explained by how technology is perceived by society (Davey, 1995). According to Wajcman (1991), technology is male cultured. "Men want to win over a machine whereas women want to use it as a tool and work with it. Why would women want to model themselves on men, to enter a field that is currently dominated by men…
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