Lack of tech exposure from young age could be preventing girls from pursuing technology careers, finds research
Early interaction with technology, more information about job opportunities and support from parents and role models are among the actions that will encourage more girls to consider tech as a career option, according to CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the technology industry.
CompTIA today released Make Tech Her Story: What Needs to Change to Inspire Girls’ Pursuit of IT Careers. The e-book and the companion website Make Tech Her Story are the centerpieces of a new awareness campaign to inspire tech industry leaders, educators, parents and, most importantly, girls to make the industry more gender inclusive.
Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO, CompTIA, commented, “Achieving greater gender diversity in our industry requires major changes in the ways girls interact with and learn about technology.
“It will take a concerted, collaborative effort and long-term commitment by parents and role models, teachers and counselors and, most importantly, industry mentors, who can convey their passion about working in tech to future generations.”
Research by Deloitte shows that only 18% of the IT workforce in the UK are women, with the percentage in the US not much higher, at 25%. To try and understand the reasons for this, new CompTIA-commissioned research, based on a survey and focus groups of girls between the ages of 10 and 17, identifies several critical factors that discourage girls from considering careers in tech.
- Parents play a key role in introducing technology – Girls and boys agree that parents and guardians are the primary source for finding out what IT stands for. But boys are more likely to begin using mobile devices at an earlier age, at five years old or younger, than girls (11% vs. 5%). Boys are also slightly more likely to explore the inner workings of tech devices out of curiosity (36% vs. 30% of girls).
- Girls’ interest in technology lessens with age – Nearly half of boys have considered a tech career, compared to less than one-quarter of girls. Among middle school girls, 27% have considered a career in technology. By high school this figure drops to 18%.
- Tech classes aren’t enough –Girls who have taken a technology class are only slightly more likely to have considered an IT career (32%). Less than half of girls who’ve taken these courses are confident their skills are right for the job.
- Girls lack awareness about career opportunities – Of girls who have not considered an IT career, 69% attribute this to not knowing what opportunities are available to them. More than half (53%) say additional information about career options would encourage them to consider a job in IT.
- Girls need role models in the industry – Just 37% of girls know of someone with an IT job. This rises to 60 percent among girls who have considered an IT career.
Women have played essential and vital roles throughout the history of computing and technology, from pioneering programmers such as Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper and the ENIAC Girls, to today’s leaders at Facebook, YouTube, HP, Alphabet, Xerox and other companies.
Tracy Pound, managing director of Maximity and member of CompTIA’s board of directors, said, “The research really shows how important initiatives like the Make Tech Her Story campaign are in raising awareness and identifying role models for both children and parents.
“With the predicted expansion of the technology industry there are potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs to be filled in the next few years and we desperately need girls and women to step up and take some of these roles. It’s an exciting industry to be part of; there’s always something new and fascinating to investigate and make use of. Anyone who wants an interesting career should take a look at what the technology industry has to offer – it’s kept me busy and engaged for over 30 years!”
The research commissioned by CompTIA includes data from four focus groups held in the Chicago area with a total of 37 middle and high school girls between 10 and 17 years-old; and an online survey of 200 girls and 200 boys in the same age range. The free e-book is available at www.comptia.org/MakeTechHerStory.
Nicoll Curtin’s CSR initiative #CodingAllowed is aimed at supporting women in technology. The company's Group CEO, James Johnson, commented, “This research highlights the staggering levels of gender disparity in technology and is exactly why we started #CodingAllowed.
“Business-education partnerships are intrinsic in the provision of information; it is vital that both young women and parents understand which qualifications and subjects are required for a career in technology. For example, few young people will understand or realise that taking science at school can lead to a career in robotics or computer gaming. Having exposure to real people, in real technology careers will help to develop this understanding of the range of technology careers and what it takes to get there.
“This is especially important when the exposure given is to a diverse business team. Girls need to see real women actually working in a range of technology roles as part of a mixed team rather, than as is often the case, as a single entity talking about her experience. This will prevent a perception of women as an anomaly in technology. High-visibility women within the IT industry are essential. If employers promote diverse images of IT professionals within their companies, we can ensure girls are growing up with a perception of the IT industry as one in which they belong.”
Picture courtesy of Pixabay