When you call the IT department or tap the talents of developers inside your organization, chances are you’ll be dealing with a man. While women accounted for 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force in January, they comprised just 28 percent of core IT occupations, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Much of this gap can be attributed to the fact that women are underrepresented in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. Between 2000-2001, women earned 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees yet attained far fewer STEM-related degrees, including just 20 percent in engineering, 28 percent in computer and engineering sciences, 48 percent in mathematics, and 41 percent in the physical sciences. While this certainly represents an improvement over the percentages from the 1969-1970 time period when women earned only one percent of engineering degrees and 13 percent of computer science degrees, it is hardly parity.
Research suggests that the lack of interest among teenage girls stems from negative messaging (it does not help to have retailers sell t-shirts that say “Allergic to Algebra”), the lack of role models, and stereotypes that tech-related jobs are isolating or geeky. The digital divide that exists between genders is exemplified by the fact that more than half of Advanced Placement test-takers are female but only 19 percent of AP computer science test-takers are female.
While women are underrepresented in IT employment, some gains have been made. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics note that there were one million women workers in core IT positions in January 2012, representing an increase of 29 percent over January 2011. Among the various IT occupations, women account for the overwhelming majority of medical records and health information technicians (88%) and almost half of computer operators. Women make up a much smaller percentage of database administrators (36%), computer programmers (21%), computer engineers (21%) or computer and machine repair personnel (11%). Given that it has been estimated that technology job opportunities will grow at a faster rate than all jobs in the professional sector, there are many opportunities for qualified women to move into these positions.
CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT community is committed to empowering women with the knowledge and skills to help build successful IT careers. To learn more about this community and how to get involved, visit the community website.