Where are the women in IT- Part II
To continue my conversation about the low number of women in IT inside the US I’ll continue to elaborate information gathered through a qualitative study recently on this very topic. We’ve already discussed the fact that the number of women in IT are low and continue to dwindle but let’s look at the responses of why this may be the case. Some of these will be details from the study and some personal opinion. Ashcroft and Blithe (2009) have tracked the number of women in computing occupations from 1991 to 2010 and the decline has been steady and continues to drop. Many studies believe this could be your basic like mingles with like…there are few women in the industry therefore women are not encouraged by peers to enter the field. In fact the lack of recruitment by university programs to encourage women to enter the technology fields has shown a massive decline over the last 10 years of women enrolment. So women are not being encouraged by other women or men to enter this career.
There are also the ‘stereotypes’ of loaner, pocket protector, geeks with no social skills who sit in the dark and alone. Woohoo, sign me up for that career. However a very large part of the discussions around the lack of women come back to ‘age old’ basic discrimination. Melymuka (2008) found that 63% of women in IT had experienced some sort of sexual harassment from peers and superiors. Other studies show that some of this surrounds work-family conflict and the ‘presumed roles’ of women by men even today in the work place. Women also report finding difficulty with advancement within their organizations vs male peers because of a “presumed commitment” of a woman who may be called upon to “care for family or children”. This is such an archaic thought process I was personally surprised to even see this included in the study discussion …but I guess we haven’t come as far as I presumed.
So what did the women who are in IT have to say about their challenges with enter and maintaining their positions. Well the great news is that 70% of the women surveyed stated they’d been in IT for 10 years or more. The longevity inside the IT workforce may say something about the respondents and maybe their commitment to this issue. From that pool the participants they felt compelled to encourage and increase the number of women as both peers and management inside IT. Ok, again another show of comradely and encouragement. One step forward. But, women also stated they have been unable to break past the management level inside any organization and only 8.1% are at the executive positions. Two steps back.
Where will we go from here?
-Jennifer Smith, PEI