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Battling gender bias in IT

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 4, 2016
You can’t aspire to be what you can’t see. To get more women into IT careers, girls and young women will need role models, mentors and public examples of success.

Programs designed to help close the skills gap include an initiative in which Women in Technology (WIT) is patnering with Cybrary, a cybersecurity-focused MOOC platform, to offer cybersecurity training to women. Such efforts will also help address the under-representation of women in the industry, but there’s still the question of how to retain women in IT once they’re involved in the industry.

Beyond education

persistent sexual harassment is one of the main reasons women leave STEM careers. A 2015 study called “The Elephant in the Valley” shines a light on the issue. In a survey of more than 200 women with 10 or more years of professional experience, mostly in Silicon Valley, 60 percent of the respondents said that they have experienced unwanted sexual advances, and one in three said that they have felt their personal safety threatened because of work-related circumstances.

Education around these issues can go a long way toward rectifying them, says Jeff Weber, senior vice president of people and places at Instructure, a learning management platform provider. He cites a recent study that showed that rates of sexual harassment decline and reporting of incidents increases at organizations that offer “gender education” programs.

Not only that, he says, the rate of resolution of such incidents increases, as does the level of satisfaction with the resolution. In other words, once people understand why and how discrimination and harassment happens, they’re less likely to take part and more likely to speak up if they see or experience it, and are generally happier with how the issues are handled.

The bottom line is that it’s clear that the lack of women in technology is a problem that must be addressed, but there are ways to tackle the issue. Solutions include introducing computer and technology concepts in elementary schools, raising awareness of IT careers among high school students, reworking university computer science curricula and creating mentorship and internship programs. There are many options, and there’s more hope than ever that women will soon make up an equal share of professionals in the IT field.

The rest of the story

and the 40-year-old woman who applied for that engineering role at DrugDev? She’s thriving.

“It turns out, this woman is phenomenal,” Flathers says. “We hired her that day, and we paid her more than what she was asking because her salary wasn’t anywhere near what the market value of her skills was. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made.”


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