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Women and the future of IT

Thornton May | Jan. 8, 2015
The industry’s attitude toward women has to change, just as much as women’s attitude toward the industry and STEM education has to be revised. The key will be starting when they’re young.

According to College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech, no female students took the Advanced Placement test in computer science in Mississippi, Montana, or Wyoming last year. For states that had some females take the exam, the percentage that was female ranged from 3.88% in Utah (four out of 103) to 29% in Tennessee (73 out of 251). 

The No. 1 barrier is familiarity; 77% said they just hadn't thought seriously about a career in IT and didn't know anyone who worked in the IT industry. As Becky Blalock explained, "It is very hard to be something you have never seen." This is why strong female IT role models are so critically important.  

We have a retention problem
The Athena Factor research project surfaced "antigens" in corporate cultures impacting the career trajectory of women with SET [science, engineering and technology] credentials. Women in technology can be marginalized by hostile macho cultures. Being the sole woman on a team or at a site can create isolation. Female attrition rates tend to spike 10 years into a career. Women experience a perfect storm in their mid to late thirties: They hit serious career hurdles precisely when family pressures intensify. Companies that step in with targeted support before this "fight or flight moment" may be able to lower the female attrition rate significantly.

In 2015, what will you do to make IT more female-friendly?


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