Can females make more inroads into IT?

Despite the fact that we live in a society of more equality between the genders than we used to, the field of technology remains a noticeable exception; so much so that the percentage of women working in the field of IT has remained largely stagnant for two decades. So what is it that’s causing most IT jobs to be filled by men?

Rather surprisingly in this day and age, part of the reason may be down to sexism. On the one hand, working in technology – beyond the roles of marketing, secretaries and so on – still seems to be considered a male position, such as builder and crane driver. It may not be the most macho job, but it seems to be an area of expertise more allied to the male of the species.

Earlier this year, for example, Sqoot made a joke in rather bad taste: “Women: Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) even staff get that for you.” Apparently the idea of a female working in software development was too preposterous. This is in spite of women having made considerable advancements in coding in the past. Ada Lovelace, for instance, was perhaps the first programmer ever, and Grace Hopper invented the compiler. In addition to that, there’s Emma Mulqueeny running Rewired State, while Emer Coleman was a huge influence in getting the London Datastore up and running.

Clearly, then, the issue isn’t that women are being turned away from jobs by interviewers; rather there appears to be a substantial amount of sexism within the workplace itself. Blog The Real Katie recently had a post explaining that the industry is one of “subtle sexism” and jokes about women “needing to be in the kitchen”.

It becomes apparent from this that within the industry itself, women may be made to feel unwelcome, unwanted, or inferior to their male counterparts. This would strongly suggest that a lack of women in technology isn’t so much to do with women themselves, but rather the men who are already in those positions. The knock-on effect is quite feasible that the women in technology employment could inform friends and family about the experience, thus planting reservations in the minds of other women, or female students, about considering it as a career choice.

This only explains part of the story though. It’s one thing to encounter sexism once in the industry, but clearly, more men than women are actually training for the jobs beforehand. From an academic perspective within schools and colleges, as has been discussed previously, technology as an encompassing subject is being widely ignored in favour of other subjects. What compounds this in relation to lower numbers of female students, and thus workers, is that it is still seen as a male-oriented subject, and with it falling out of favour with both genders it is unlikely to be suddenly picked up on by females.

Therein could lay the silver lining to this cloud, though. With the government already acknowledging that it needs to boost the numbers of students studying technology, it will probably launch some sort of campaign to increase interest in it. This campaign can hone in on potential female students to help change the way technology is thought of as a male subject, and encourage more females to study it. The benefit of this would be threefold: 1) technology would become a major subject 2) it would help to eradicate the sexism present within the subject and 3) it would increase the ratio of women to men within the industry.

It is still early days, but the possibility is there for a major shift to occur in the technology industry, causing a marked change in the trend of women in technology.