Women interested in a career with high potential for earnings, placement and advancement may not have to look further than their own computer screens. The IT field is burgeoning with potential, and though women are not highly represented in the industry, they are in high demand by employers.
A Look at the Potential
Computer sciences offer a great deal of potential for women – and men – who step up to fill vacant positions in this fast-growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for computer systems analysts is among the fastest-growing in the nation. The field is projected to see a 25% job growth rate through 2022. The estimated median annual salary for those holding a bachelor’s degree is $79,680.
Other computer science-related posts are also flourishing. The demand for computer support specialists and computer network architects is projected to increase by an estimated 17% and 15%, respectively.
Where Are the Women?
Though the demand for women in IT is high, women are not pursuing the field in droves. It was estimated that 57% of all jobs in America in 2013 were held by women, but only 26% of professional computing occupations were filled by females, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Only about 20% of bachelor’s degrees in the computing fields go to women.
There are a number of reasons why women don’t pursue IT fields as aggressively as others. Some lay the blame on misconceptions about the field, such as it’s only for highly technical “geeks,” or that it doesn’t deliver a solid work-life balance.
The real problem, some experts say, is a quantity issue: Not enough women are choosing tech-related careers.
A study conducted by Penn Schoen and Berland revealed that about 63% of teens have never considered a career in engineering. In a Girl Scouts of America study, only 13% of teenage girls said a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career would be their first choice.
Closing the Gap
Industry leaders have some ideas for closing the gap and bringing more talented women into the IT field. With positions available, pay high and opportunity ripe, some of the suggestions include offering earlier exposure to tech fields, stronger mentorship programs and changing the perception of the IT workplace.
Resources for Entering IT
Though women aren’t entering IT in masses, chief information officers (CIOs) say their skills are in high demand. Women can bring a number of attractive skills to the table, including collaboration, efficient multitasking and social skills, which may make the teams they work on more effective.
A NCWIT study involving more than 100 teams at 21 different companies revealed that those with an equal number of men and women were more likely to be creative, fulfill tasks, experiment and share knowledge.
Women who would like to break into the IT arena will discover there are many resources available to help them explore the field:
- The National Center for Women & Information Technology – This coalition of more than 200 corporations, academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations was founded to increase women’s roles in the IT field.
- Linuxchik – This is a network for women working in Linux.
- Anita Borg Institute – This organization was designed to increase the impact of women working in all aspects of technology.
- National Women of Color Technology Conference – This conference highlights the accomplishments of minority women in the IT arena.
- Systers – This is an email community of women working in computing.