The computer science industry has seen an unprecedented mass exit of women who seemingly prefer jobs in other science industries. This has resulted in a significant decrease in female employees in the tech field notes the authors at Wire Guys, an organization that is trying to bring gender equality in this male dominated field.
The latest report from the National Center for Women And Information Technology revealed that there has been a drop of 11% in women holding computer related positions between 1991 and 2008 – declining from 36% to 25%.
According to Dr. Catherine Ashcraft, co-author of “Women in IT: The Facts“, there seem to be a variety of factors that have affected this mass exodus:
– The perception that there are no employment opportunities in the IT sector after the dot-com burst of the late 1990’s.
– The assumption that most tech-related jobs are being outsourced internationally.
– A large number of misconceptions regarding what the IT industry actually involves.
– The perception that tech jobs are for “nerds or geeks”.
– The greater visibility and attraction for employment in other science related fields.
And it isn’t only the amount of women entering the job market that has affected this decrease. Women who have been employed in the tech industry are leaving their jobs at an increased rate.
The report describes that attrition in the technology sector is significantly higher for women than men, as well as in the fields of science and engineering. Statistically speaking, only 17% of men will leave their tech job after a period of 10 years whereas between 41% and 56% of women will explore other employment or career options after 10-20 years, considered to be the mid-point of their careers.
There do however seem to be two outstanding reasons why women are fleeing the tech field – difficulty in finding a balance between work and life as well as isolation.
Both women and men feel equally that success in technology and voip communication industry does not equate with having a quality family life outside of work, creating an imbalance between work and life.
Another reason seems to be “The Athena Factor” which was outlined in a Harvard Business Review report as the lack of female mentors or role models in the IT industry to attract women to tech field.
What can the tech industry do to halt this phenomenon and start attracting more women into the field?
Understanding that there is a problem and identifying the causes is the first step towards reversing the cycle. Changing stereotypes, overcoming communication challenges and investigating flexi-time or telecommuting options by training management to effectively deal with a diverse group of employees are all essential to retaining and attracting women to work in the tech industry.