Deloitte Global predicts that by end-2016 fewer than 25 percent of information technology (IT) jobs in developed countries will be held by women, i.e. women working in IT roles. That figure is about the same as 2015, and may even be down. Gender imbalance in IT has been recognized as an issue since at least 2005. One might have expected some improvement since then, and perhaps even faster change since 2010, when there was a surge in articles about women in technology jobs. That has not been the case. Contributing factors include:
The education pipeline. In fields of study related to IT — especially computer science — there are clear problems with gender diversity in the educational pipeline. For example, only 18 percent of US university computer science (CS) graduates in 2013 were women. And that was down from 1985, when 37 percent of graduates were women. Also, the gender gap in the educational pipeline precedes university (tertiary) education. In the US, only 18 percent of students taking the Advanced Placement Exam for Computer Science in 2013 were women. In the UK, a 2012 survey showed that only 17 percent of girls had learned any computer coding in school, about half the level of the 33 percent of boys who had coded. Some argue that girls are often steered away from science and math courses in primary school. Other experts go earlier still, stressing the role parents need to take in encouraging girls younger than school age to be interested in science and technology.
Recruiting and hiring. According to a 2014 study among UK firms, half of all companies hiring IT workers stated that only one-in-twenty job applicants were women. Further, various studies from multiple countries show that both men and women are twice as likely to hire a man for an IT job as an equally qualified woman — a pattern that may be driven by unconscious gender biases.
Paying and promoting. A US female web developer makes 79 cents to the dollar men make for the same job; and while female computer and information systems managers have a narrower gap of 87 cents to the dollar, a pay difference is still prevalent. In the US a quarter of women with IT roles feel stalled in their careers. In India the proportion is much higher, at 45 percent. And a survey in the UK states that 37 percent of women in IT say that they have been passed over for promotion because of their gender.
Retaining. Women in IT roles are 45 percent more likely than men to leave in their first year, according to a 2014 US study. The study found that retention was a problem after the first year as well. Potential issues beyond pay and promotion include a hostile or sexist ‘bro-grammer’ culture, as well as workplace policies not suited to women, such as marathon coding sessions, expectations around not having children, and lack of childcare.
Although some of the numbers on gender diversity in IT may appear disappointing, there are also hopeful signs. At one leading US technology school, computer science is now the most popular degree for women. Further, in some regards women are punching above their weight; education may not be the gating factor that some think it is. While less than a fifth of US computer science graduates were women in 2013, as of 2014 the proportion of women in tech roles in US companies was 24 percent in 2014, and 27 percent of IT managerial roles were held by women. And speaking of leadership, there have never been more senior women in tech, particularly high profile female C-suite executives : this is providing leadership, role models and mentors for women and girls thinking about a career in IT.
Despite these positive signs, getting more girls and young women into streams that will lead to careers in IT will likely be difficult. Even if real progress is made immediately in improving gender parity in STEM at levels of the educational pipeline, it may take time (possibly decades, in the case of improvements to primary education) for those improvements to translate into IT job parity.