Where are the Women in Information Technology
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Where are the Women in Information Technology Nancy Ramsey and Pamela McCorduck Report of Literature Search and Interviews Prepared by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (www.anitaborg.org) for the National Center for Women & Information Technology University of Colorado, Boulder This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Excerpt from the Executive Summary The issue of women’s under-representation in information technology, whether in school, higher education, or industry, has been studied in many ways over several decades. Many of the studies which ask why women avoid IT, or if they enter the field, sooner or later fall away, make explicit recommendations to remedy the situation. However, the proportion of women continues to drop from a high of 40% in 1986, to about 29% at the end of 1999, and is still dropping. The literature suggests that it is no mystery. Women who enter and remain in IT do so under extremely trying circumstances, which are almost entirely cultural. Given the strides that women are making toward parity in other professional fields, the question really must be phrased: what is wrong with IT that it can’t attract and hold women? However, that same literature fails to distinguish among the micro-climates of IT. Nearly 80% of jobs in IT are in the management information systems departments of non-IT firms, which are very different environments from the frontiers of scientific research, or the climate in start-ups. Since all these micro- climates are indiscriminately aggregated in nearly all studies, the recommendations these studies make might very well be misleading. We strongly suggest that NCWIT make explicit what kinds of microclimates exist, and whether the absence of women is more or less uniform across the landscape. In any case, the literature consistently reflects a series of cultural stereotypes that frame the issues by making tacit assumptions about women’s skills, and by measuring those skills unfairly. Worse, women themselves often accept these stereotypes, and the entire work or learning atmosphere can be poisoned by them. Despite these obstacles, some women succeed at the top of IT. Our interviews suggest that they are women with clarity of purpose and an unusually strong sense of self-worth. Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University and Steven Shafer, Princeton University Social Science Quarterly. Volume 87, Number 2, June 2006. “Because web uses can influence so many aspects of one’s life, the finding that women are significantly more likely to exhibit lower self-perception of their actual online skills than do men has wide-spread implications for the potential benefits—or lack thereof—that female users may reap from this important medium.” ECAR Information Technology Leadership in Higher Education: The Condition of the Community, Volume 1, 2004 "…the percentage of women aspiring to the top IT position (16.4 percent) is still low compared with 28.2 percent for men….female survey respondents also generally earn less than male respondents: while only 40 percent of male respondents reported salary levels under $75,00 per year, nearly 60 percent of women reported such earnings…" "…What did those respondents not inclined to pursue the CIO position say about their lack of interest? Most commonly cited were the long hours and personal commitment required to be an effective CIO, the job’s distasteful political requirements, the perceived need for a doctoral degree, and a personal preference for maintaining hands-on technical work or remaining close to the users…" "…Our data indicate that mentoring may benefit survey respondents by offering subtle but potentially important associations with salary, industry commitment, and other expressed behaviors and preferences…" "…What’s much more revealing and interesting is where we didn’t find gender differences in our data. Almost across the board on leadership characteristics and perceptions, men and women showed similar profiles. They didn’t differ significantly in leadership behaviors; both displayed a tendency toward effective leadership styles….When asked their opinions on a broad set of IT topics ranging from governance to planning to architecture and measurment, they again showed no significant disagreement…" From an article in the Los Angeles Times, August 2006 "With Monday's appointment of Indian-born Indra Nooyi as chief executive, PensiCo has positioned itself to compete for key emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East…Nooyi, 50, will be the rarest of CEOs: a wife, mother, and a woman of color. Only two other women…lead larger U.S. corporations…Nooyi’s appointment makes her only the 11 th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company… Nooyi is known for her directness, wit and a habit of singing in the office… It’s not just about creating a diverse employment pool…but doing it while creating new customer bases… Beth Perlman, one of two women in the 2006 InfoWorld top 25 IT leaders. "I’m a business person who understands technology and I view technology as something that solves business problems…Technology is the easy part; it’s transforming processes and getting people to change that’s the hard part…"