Women in IT: Where We Stand Today

Employer Insights, Job Seekers

Women in IT

The complicated relationship between women and the IT industry can be best summarized in one word: “Brogramming.” This colloquial term refers to the fact that IT jobs tend to be filled by men, and IT workplaces have a decidedly masculine focus. Despite this, the history of IT is filled with brilliant and successful women who have made valuable contributions to today’s tech landscape. In some ways, the opportunities for women in the IT industry are better than they have ever been. In other ways, they have not changed much in 30 years. We decided to take this opportunity to examine where women stand in the IT world of 2014.

The Good

As high-profile women like Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!, Ginni Rometty at IBM, and Ursula Burns at Xerox have demonstrated, there is a place for women at the very top of some of the largest tech companies in the world. Fifteen years ago, this level of accomplishment would have been unthinkable for a female engineer.

There is also a growing consensus that female professionals will be integral to the future of IT. Programs like DigiGirlz and Girls Who Code have popped up in American high schools to teach young women skills like programming and app development. These programs are sponsored by Microsoft and Google respectively, a sign that they want to integrate more female developers into their workforce.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, companies are increasingly realizing the value of a diverse workforce. Top prospects don’t want to work in homogeneous environments. That makes the recruitment of women, along with other minority candidates, a serious priority for today’s hiring managers. Female IT professionals are no longer a token nod to diversity, they are integral to the success of today’s businesses.

The Bad

When you dig into the numbers, it is clear that women continue to be a significant minority in the tech sphere. Despite making up 57% of the workforce, women occupy just 25% of tech jobs. At some companies, this proportion is much lower. The outlook in colleges and universities is not any better. Only 18% of graduates with a computer science degree are female, and significantly fewer young women take the AP computer science test than the AP calculus test

There has also been little progress made to achieve the work/life balance that many professional women are looking for. The long hours and high stress of IT jobs have led some women to dismiss this career path, or to forestall starting a family until their professional lives meet certain benchmarks. This systematic roadblock is nothing new, but it is also not changing.

The Takeaway

When interviewed, many female professionals in the IT sector echo the same sentiment–“We’ve come a long way, but not nearly far enough.” Some predict that the shifting nature of IT will privilege those with dynamic skill sets and open more opportunities. Others believe the opportunities are there already, women just need to be more aggressive about advancing their careers. One thing is clear, however. Companies are looking for top IT prospects, and the demand is great. As gender bias slowly erodes, qualified women with IT backgrounds will get the same opportunities that men have enjoyed for decades.

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