As technical innovation plays an increasingly critical role in essentially every sector of the U.S. and global economy, computer-related positions is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S as businesses strive to increase efficiency and reduce costs through the use of information technology (IT). The Bureau Labor of Statistics (2009) estimate that computer-related occupations will add 762,700 new jobs from 2008 to 2018, growing more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations in the economy.
However, despite this immense growth, interest in IT related careers and enrollments in computer science curriculums have steadily declined over the past decade (National Science Foundation 2010). The National Center for Women and Information Technology (2009) argues that if current disinterest in IT among student continues, by 2018 the industry will only be able to fill half of its available jobs with computer science graduates from U.S. universities.
This problem intensifies as the industry is failing to attract women who are well positioned to move into these open jobs. Ever since 1991, the participation by women in the IT industry has dramatically declined, while the percentage of jobs held by women in other scientific fields has increased (NCWIT 2009). The Women in Technology Foundation stated that:
“In 2008, women received 57% of all undergraduate degrees but represented only 18% of all Computer and Information Sciences undergraduate degrees. There has been a 79% decline, between 2000 and 2008, in the number of incoming undergraduate women interested in majoring in Computer Science. As a result, only 27% of computer scientists today are female.”
Furthermore, women already employed in the technology industry are leaving at staggering rates. According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy (2008), 56 percent of women working in an IT-related field leave during the mid-level point in their careers, more than double the quit rate of men. The loss of talent during this phase in a person’s career is most costly to companies that trained and nurtured them.
Failing to capitalize on the vast talents of women in the IT industry threatens U.S. productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. This trend not only creates a problem for the industry, but also for both the domestic and global economy. A shortage of talent in IT related professions would inherently reduce innovation, productivity, and competiveness, resulting in decrease customer satisfaction and vast financial losses. To further strengthen the U.S. position as a technical leader, we need to examine the reasons why the industry is failing to attract more women. This paper aims to understand why there is such a significant gender imbalance in the IT industry, including a summary of possible actions in which this problem can be addressed.
There has been numerous research showing social, psychological and cultural factors that result in...