Why aren’t there more women in IT?

Despite holding more than half of all professional jobs in the U.S., women make up just a quarter of the IT workforce. Here’s why companies should care – and what they can do about it. 

Women hold 56% of all professional jobs in the U.S. — however, just 25% of tech jobs are held by women. The disparity gets even more stark as you move up the ranks, as only 11% of Fortune 500 tech company executives are women, and women own just 5% of tech start-ups.

A recent CNET article pondering the issue cited three recent incidents that put the spotlight on the lack of women in technology:

  • An upcoming Boston-based hacking conference stirred up controversy when it touted women serving beer as one of the perks of attendance
  • A techie social network took down a promotional video featuring a scantily-clad woman after the ad attracted unfavorable attention, and
  • A series of BusinessWeek articles highlighted the growing use of the term “brogrammer” to refer to programmers who are more social than the common stereotype — that male-centric terminology has received heavy criticism.

The conclusion of the article is that it won’t be possible to attract more women to IT unless organizations create a culture that’s more inviting to female employees. However, many comments on the story argued that there aren’t more women in IT simply because not many women are interested in technology.

Whatever the root cause, IT’s gender disparity is a problem, experts say, because studies have shown that teams and companies as a whole perform better with more gender diversity and women in leadership roles.

What can be done to bring more women into tech positions? A recent South by Southwest panel discussed the importance of mentoring to attracting and keeping women in the IT field. Also, the National Center for Women & Information Technology recommends steps organizations can take to recruit and retain female employees in tech positions, such as:

  1. Encouraging female employees to take on new roles and responsibilities — As minorities in most IT departments, many women may not be as forward or likely to take risks as male colleagues.
  2. Showcasing female staff members’ accomplishments — That will show there are no doubts in management about women’s ability to succeed in IT.
  3. Evaluating how tasks are assigned — Make sure it’s based on employees’ abilities rather than unconscious assumptions about their genders.
  4. Treating employees as individuals — One important thing to keep in mind is that no employee should ever be made to feel like a “token” member of any group.

What do you think — is the lack of women in IT an issue that needs to be fixed? Or is technology just not a field that a lot of women are interested in studying? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

For more on the issue, view our infographic examining the presence of women in technology.

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