Women in the IT Sector

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22nd May 2017 Sociology Reference this

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The underrepresentation of women in IT is a research section that has received much attention in recent years. Extant research has examined several factors that contribute to and/or increase the widening gender gap. Information technology abbreviated as (I.T) according to Information Technology association of America can be described as” the study, development, implementation, support or management of computer based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware” (Answer co-oporation, 2012). From the above, it can be deduced that Information technology deals with information handing out and knowledge management processing. In the early 60’s and 70’s, places like banks and hospitals knew about information technology, and understood then as the procedure used to store information.

However, in recent times I.T has now become a familiar name. It is an Industry that uses computers, software programs and communication materials to retrieve, store transmit and secure data. Developing and developed countries rely on I.T to ensure rapid progress. Businesses and organizations also rely on the field for maximum output.

Over the years, people have effectively adopted and embraced information technology in all sectors and works of life, and it contributes a significant quota to the development of the economy of most countries. Furthermore, it is quite remarkable to note that the foundation and practise of Information technology around the world is a contribution of both the male and female counterparts, and this is quite evident in most developed countries such as the United Kingdom, The United states of America and China. It is quite the opposite in seemingly developing and under-developed countries as statistics which would be presented in the latter of this report shows that women are significantly under-represented across the field.

I have carefully carried out a search of literature on participation of women in the industry; also I have examined the women who had made their mark in Information technology. Moreover, the research points to the fact that women’s participation in I.T has drastically dropped over the years across the field, despite efforts to attract and keep them in the field.

This information presented is a rigorous social science review which would give the reader in-depth background knowledge of where Women participation in the industry started and provides accurate statistics across the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa gotten during the research on this subject.

INTRODUCTION

Information Technology is rapidly changing the world; it has significantly changed the way we do, the way we communicate with people all over the world. I.T has also advanced the teaching system used in all learning and teaching institutions as well as the way we protect ourselves. People are better informed, and the method of disseminating quality information across the world has improved. The gradually transforming of the IT industry into a household name has been an labour of both male and the female gender who have worked relentlessly to the acceptance of the field; particularly in high developed countries who support the practise of information technology in all fields of life.

However, inequality between women and men has persisted in hiring and retention of women at all levels of information technology (I.T), this accounts from the few number of girls who have had an understanding of computer modules in schools, to the low percentage of women/ females who take up any IT course as an undergraduate level and more visibly the lack of female in excellent organisational and academic positions. What seem to have been a common ground and industry for both gender has now become a seemingly man’s world due to the low participation of women in this sector.

Gender indifferences in IT careers seem to be affecting the competitiveness of companies globally. It posited that given the current labour shortage in the IT industry, it has become more critical than ever to reduce sources of leakage in the IT career paths of women. Figures so far indicate that the proportion of women in IT has dropped from 40 percent of the IT workforce in 1986 to about 29 percent at the end of 1999 and is still dropping (Andrea & Kvasny, 2004).

This report presented, suggests that stronger representation by women in technical roles would help to resolve troubling human capital deficit, and will refine and extend the scope of technological applications, products, standards and practices; which will improve the society. It also shows the continuing under-representation of women in the Information technology sector. This report consists of figures and graphs.

It will also discuss the contributions of women from 1842 when we had the first female programmer. It also shows the steady decline in female participation and activities over the years.

AIMS OF THE REPORT

Tell a valid account about the current situation of women participation in the industry.

Provide a comprehensive summary of the key barriers to women’s participation in technology.

Provide promising practices and for addressing these barriers.

Suggest ways to evaluate and improve working conditions for women in technology.

HISTORY AND CONTRIBUTION

An extensive research done on this subject, it is quite obvious that women have been of high repute in this field; it is publicized in an article by Anita Borg: Women participation in Information technology can be traced back to 1842; when the first woman programmer Ada Lovelace who studied mathematics at her young age designed a document that elaborated on her idea that the analytic machine an plan by Charles Babbage, might be used to compose complex music, to produce graphics, and would be used for both practical and scientific use. These notes contained a specification for the first computer program. This note can be described as an algorithm encoded for processing by a machine. She also suggested that the machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with rules and that numbers could represent entities other than quantities characterize the underlying change from calculation to computation. Years after she wrote her article, her ideas were implemented in developing the first computer, which over the years has transformed to the desktop and laptops. With her contribution in helping to analyze Babbage’s invention, she is referred to the analyst of Charles Babbage’s analytical engine and the first computer programmer. (Borg, 2002)

Furthermore, between the1970 to 1980, Dr Adele Goldberg who has a PhD in Information science combined with Alan Kay in developing the object- oriented programming language Smalltalk-80. This programming language was then used to model the windows, icons, menus and pointers interface at Xerox PARC which is a method for today’s graphical user interfaces. With this contribution, she is accredited the co-founder of the Smalltalk-80 programming language. (Borg, 2002)

Anita Borg a computer scientist also played a vital role in introducing women into the field of computer technologies by developing Systers in 1987. It was an electronic mailing list exclusively for women in the information technology. It also provided a framework that helped women who were in the field develop themselves, share and solve challenges they faced in their respective organizations/ workplace.

In 1997, she later established the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology which aimed at encouraging young women to go into the technology industry. Having put all her energy into trying to encourage women into the technology industry, she is highly regarded as the cause of introduction of women to the field and a mentor of young women in the career. (Borg, 2002)

STATISTICS

Although, science and engineering disciplines such as Mathematics had existed over the years and dominated by men, Computer science can as well be traced far back to 1960 when it started up as a recognized academic discipline. Quite a handful of women had taken up careers in information technology. The report shows that the percentage of women in the field increased to its highest by 36%; 1985 to 1991, but it slowly drops to 25% between 1991 down till 2008; this suggest that there has been a significant difference in the position occupied by women in the industry compared to their male counterparts.

Fig 1.0 a chart showing the degradation of women in the industry

Image available at: http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/legacy/pdf/NCWIT_TheFacts_rev2010.pdf)

Despite the increasing number of computing jobs, interest in these majors and careers has steadily declined over the past decade. Statistics show that more males have attained bachelor degrees and employed in the industry. However, female students who are enrolling in computer science and graduating with computer science degrees in the industry is steadily diminishing with only a few holding top positions in organizations. Mary Lou Roberts suggests that if the current trends continue, by 2018 the industry will only be able to fill half with its available jobs with more male candidates holding bachelor degrees in computing and information sciences (Roberts, 2007).

Fig2.0 Graph showing the difference between men and women taking up a level in I.T

Image available at: http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/legacy/pdf/NCWIT_TheFacts_rev2010.pdf)

Furthermore, the data in this study clearly indicate women are not well represented in the sector that constitutes the growth mechanism of most highly developed and developing countries.

Consequently, the Anita Borg foundation relentlessly tries to encourage more young women to take up a career in the industry as well as provide more to make it an fair industry for both the male and female sexes

FACTORS AFFECTING WOMEN IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

An article by J.Cohoon and W. Aspray, argues “Information technology/ computing remains a heavily male dominated area even after twenty-five years of extensive efforts to promote female participation” (Joanne & William, 2012).

Most popular discussion and research focuses on the increasing numbers of women as users of information technology with a strong emphasis on their use of the Internet and World Wide Web; several efforts have been geared to attract more women into the industry, so as to reduce the dominance of the male sexes who have taken up more careers in the industry. However, as reported by Cheris Kramarae, these efforts have not brought up the expected result, and specific factors are attributed to be responsible for the gender inequality and large disparity in the industry. ( Cheris, 2003)

This section of the report reveals the factors that have been responsible for slow reduction of women representation in the industry. These factors would be discussed in the following sub-headings:

LABOUR LAWS AND REGULATION

In some of the middle-eastern and north- African countries, such as Jordan and Sudan. The labour laws and regulations which were originally meant to protect women have turned around to have adverse effects on women’s participation and contribution to the industry and the willingness of employers to hire females into the industry.

Some of the laws and regulations are listed below:

Law: Regulation 55 of the Jordan law states that “family allowances should not be paid to female employees for her Children if the father is still alive or not retired except in a situation of permanent disabilities

Impact: there is unequal treatment of women in the area as well as her dependants and this gives women the notion that women are secondary breadwinners of the family. (Danna, et al., 2010)

Law: 1996 Labour Code (Article 69) states that the Ministry of Labour can determine the industries and Job prohibited to women.

Impact: this limits the women’s freedom of choice of courses to study at the university as well as the careers to take up in the university. It fails to protect women and thus, exposes women to Jobs that may be quite risky. (Danna, et al., 2010)

Workplace-PLACE ISOLATION

In some workplaces and offices, Women who are chief executives in offices are often separated from other female workers who are under the ladder and require appropriate mentorship or sponsorship, and this affects their retention and advancement. In The Athena Factor, one-third of women in private-sector SET jobs said they felt extremely isolated at work. In the same study, 40 percent of technical women reported lacking role models while nearly half reported lacking mentors, and 84 percent reported lacking sponsors or someone who would help make their accomplishments evident throughout the organization. This particularly leads to feelings of isolation, and these feelings become more pronounced as women move up the corporate or academic ranking (Gibson, 2012).

Furthermore, in some I.T industries as well, the job roles of the women are different from that of the male counterparts. This has negative effects on women as they often have no male counterparts to share ideas and problems with; either relating to their career challenges or matters outside the work place experience, hence, forcing them to either quit their job roles or change their direction of career away from the technology industry.

Also, Women are left out of board meetings and taking key decision in most organizations as they sometimes are considered as un-important and their ideas or contributions would not count towards the development of the organization. They are left to their offices and only informed about the new policies,

Fig3.0 Graph showing the effect of the work-place isolation factor on women.

Image available at: http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/legacy/pdf/NCWIT_TheFacts_rev2010.pdf)

STEREOTYPING

Over the years, women have cultivated fears and anxieties in taking up a career in the technology industry as they often consider it as a highly technical field and complex academic subject. Furthermore, they have developed the notion that Engineering, sciences and technology is a man’s field. This therefore has reduced their sense of competence and trust. This can and most times negatively affect performance, confidence, and risk-taking behaviour. Stereotype has been a serious threat, and this majorly has made employers, supervisors, or co-workers incorrectly assume that these behaviours or lack of confidence are the result of personal characteristics of the employees themselves. These senses of un-importance and anxiety have undoubtedly ensured that these employees are not able to live up to their full potential and in most cases make them to leave the office for sense of inferiority.

GLASS-CLIFF EFFECT

This situation occurs when they seem to be promoted too early or put in charge of tasks they do not yet have the expertise or the ability to carry out. This often happens as supervisors, managers, or organization leaders try to meet diversity requirements. Meeting these requirements in this way, however, unconsciously sets these employees up to fail and is detrimental to the long-term interest of the company, to the employee’s own interest, and to future efforts for hiring and retaining diverse employees. When these female practitioners fail in the various tasks they have been assigned, it sets them up and gradually reduces their confidence and self-worth, causing them to either resign or choose another career.

These factors mentioned are responsible for the decline and reluctance of young women to take up a career in I.T. It has also discouraged those with a degree in computing from taking up a career among the various opportunities in the field.

WAYS TO ENCOURAGE WOMEN IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

A growing body of evidence demonstrates the importance of gender balance in leadership including improvements in organizational performance and corporate governance. Hence, there is the need to establish practices that would attract more women into the industry and increase the overall output from the Technology sector of the economy.

This section gives in details specific practices which would increase women’s participation in the industry and further enhance the output of the few who are still practicing. These practices are listed in the sub-headings below:

Establishing Fair and Clear Promotion Criteria

It is necessary to note that the basis on which men and women are judged as successful should be made even during promotion. Both men and women strongly value teamwork and realize that collaboration is essential for success. Providing an balanced working environment and opportunity is critical to retaining women in the industry. This is because in most organizations and industries, the males are quickly promoted to managerial and supervisory positions while the women kept at their primary roles take a longer time before they get promoted to managerial positions.

When there is an open framework for promotion for both genders, women would give more efforts into their jobs, and this apparently would bring out the best in them.

Introducing effective mentoring

Mentoring is a vital practice can help female employees develop the skills and confidence they need to take on more senior roles and give their full potentials at their various place of work. It is not about the mentor teaching a specific skill; it is about creating a reflective learning environment through conversations between mentors and mentees. This would allow the younger staffs gain the confidence and the ideas they need to explore issues and develop solutions. Seeing someone like themselves in a position they pursue, will improve their workplace experience and give them Job satisfaction.

Improve workplace culture

Another practice most organizations and industries have not paid care to is that of providing a good working condition for the female employees. This can be achieved by providing an on-site child support to carter for nursing mothers, giving them more allowances and defining a good salary payment plan. Furthermore, providing gender specific training in leadership skills for women in the organization would provide tangible benefits. It gives a clear message to them that the industry views them as leaders and is making an investment in them, boosting their confidence and morale. Organizations which practice excellent workplace culture appeal to, and benefit, men and women, employees and manager.

CONCLUSION

It is quite distinct from this report that Women are relevant and to the industry. Records show that they have contributed immensely to the introduction of information technology and computing in this present age. This information document Ada Lovelace designed an algorithm used to design the first computer and have transformed to the various systems we have today.

Furthermore, in 1893, Henrietta Swan Leavitt joined the Harvard “computers”, a group of women engaged in the making of astronomical data at Harvard. She was instrumental in discovery of the Cepheid variable stars, which are evidence for the expansion of the universe.

Hence, it would be a tremendous step if these practices mentioned above implemented as this would boost the overall output from the field and send a message to the young women taking up a degree in universities that a lot awaits them in the field. It would also give them a sense of belonging and support coming into the industry.

Bibliography

Andrea, T. & Kvasny, L., 2004. Recruitment is Never Enough. Retention of Women and Minorities in the IT workplace, 22-24 April.

Answer co-oporation, 2012. What is Information Technology. [Online]

Available at: http://wiki.answers.com/What_is_information technology

[Accessed 24 November 2012].

Borg, A., 2002. Women in Computer Science. [Online]

Available at: http://cssu-bg.org/WomenInCS/anita_borg.php

[Accessed 04 December 2012].

Danna, p., Ghoshesh, H., Darawazeh, N. & Sabaggah, A., 2010. Factors affecting Women participation in the Private Sector. [Online]

Available at: http://www.almanar.jo/AlManarWeb/

[Accessed 03 December 2012].

Gibson, R., 2012. Factors affecting online mentoring acceptances by women professionals. [Online]

Available at: http://udini.proquest.com/view/factors-affecting-online-mentoring-goid:304819169/

[Accessed 02 December 2012].

Joanne, C. & William, A., 2012. Women and Information Technology. [Online]

Available at: http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/women-and-information-technology

[Accessed 25 November 2012].

Roberts, M. L., 2007. Why the Number of Women in IT Is Decreasing. [Online]

Available at: http://www.itjungle.com/tfh/tfh011507-story02.html

[Accessed 04 December 2012].

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