It’s a two way street. As it turns out, the IT industry is as hostile to women as they are to it. An analysis by Thorton May for computerworld.com points out that women are unlikely sights in this “supposed” male bastion- the IT  industry, because they see it as an unlikely career prospect themselves. While it’s debatable whether the chicken came first or the egg, what’s certain is that we’re caught in a vicious cycle.

Becky Blalock, the recently retired CIO at the Southern Company and author of Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage & Career, lends us her insight in the article about the current scenario in the IT world, and the inherent barriers that keep women from it.

The “computer”- a person who used a mechanical device to do arithmetic calculations- was almost always a woman, in the immediate post world-war period. The same field is almost completely devoid of women now. And this represents the larger picture now: it is perfectly acceptable for women to think of something involving numbers distastefully, as per the conventions of today’s society.

“From the middle school computer lab to the upper echelons of Silicon Valley, the tech world has been a boys club for too long,” says Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. According to a statistic from Girls who Code, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, yet, only 29% of these jobs would get filled by the graduates US is producing. Amongst the girls studying in college, just 12% are computer science graduates.

Women in Tech: Women working on computers
Women in Tech: Women working on computers
Picture By: CraigConnects

Out of the female workforce of USA and UK, only 25 and 14 percent belong to the IT industry.

Middle school is when this is set this in motion. While 74% of girls express interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), just 0.3% of high school girls select computer science. Only 3.88 and 29 percent of the people who took the SETs were girls.  It is often projected that technology is something girls consume, but not create.

 

On being surveyed, 77 percent said that choosing a career in IT just doesn’t come to them instinctively; nor do they know of any women in that sphere. In the article, Thorton May references the Athena Factor research project’s findings: Antigens in the IT corporate space- few in  number, the women feel further isolated and intimidated. This is why strong female IT role models are so critically important. The Athena Factor research project surfaced “antigens” in corporate cultures impacting the career trajectory of women with SET [science, engineering and technology] credentials.

 

Women are also thrown off by by hostile macho cultures. Besides, attrition rates escalate as women are often faced with the dilemma of choosing either family or their careers in their mid to late thirties. And company policies are hardly conducive to support women in this “fight or flight moment” causing even lesser population by women in the higher echelons. And thus comes full circle this vicious cycle.

 

The IT industry though, is taking responsibility for raze down this glass ceiling as companies like Intel announce ambitious schemes to bolster women employment. It remains to be seen how many companies follow suite in uniting women with their old friends again.

Original source: Computer World

[Feature Picture Courtesy: CIS 407/507]