Since the advent of modern digital technology, men largely outweighed women in regards to college majors and careers that focused on cutting edge computer technology. However, as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous and increasingly relevant to a variety of different fields, this trend is shifting toward a larger population of women choosing academic concentrations such as Information Technology and computer science. Changing perceptions in professional roles across multiple industries has likely helped fuel this growing trend. Gender stereotypes with respect to the workforce continue to evolve. That’s good news for women—and even better news for universities and employers.
Women in Information Technology By the Numbers
According to the Center for Women & Information Technology (CWIT), women held 57 percent of professional occupations in the United States workforce in 2011. However, women held only 25 percent of professional computing occupations in the same year. Based on these statistics alone, it’s clear that women haven’t found a compelling case for entering the field. An even lower number of women rise to the top of the IT industry, with only 20 percent of women holding Chief Information Officer (CIO) positions at Fortune 250 companies in 2012.Although women remain in the minority, there is mounting evidence of an increasing interest among women to join the IT industry. The beginning of the trend happens earlier in the career pipeline than college majors and eventual employment—it actually goes as as far back as high school. The same study report by CWIT revealed that 56 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers were female in 2011, while females composed 46 percent of AP Calculus test-takers and 19 percent of AP Computer Science test-takers. There is certainly still a long way to go before women reach equal representation with men in IT industries, but these statistics reveal that we’re one step closer to that goal.How Schools are Fostering Student Interest in Information Technology
The increase of women in IT industries is likely correlated with several schools encouraging female students—in addition to more students in general—to develop a personal interest and passion for technology. Colleges across the country are beginning to agree that computational thinking and proficiency
is just as crucial to higher education as reading, writing, and arithmetic. One institution of higher learning even offers non-computer science majors the opportunity to attend a program called the “Principles of Computation.” This program begins by introducing students to the history of computation, learning programming languages, and covering other topics related to IT.
By introducing all students to the basics of Information Technology, a growing number of female students can discover a new field that they may have never sought out on their own because of stereotypes or other limiting factors. The more that technology-based media are emphasized in school, the more interest these fields can expect to generate across both genders.
It’s clear that technology is becoming a fundamental component for industries of all kinds. Although many colleges are noticing the extent to which technology is penetrating the professional world, not all institutions have made proficiency in this medium mandatory for students. And as high schools and universities work to make IT more attractive to women, females will likely choose IT careers in greater numbers going forward.