Things Are Getting Better For Women In Tech, But They Still Hit A Glass Ceiling

According to the 2011 Technisource Women in Information Technology Report, things aren’t as bad for women in technology as we previously thought. ”It is very encouraging to see so many of the differing factors of how men and women view employment within the technology field starting to stabilize and reach equal levels,” said Alisia Genzler, vice president of the Northeast Region of Technisource. “Yet, there is still a battle for perception of equality around compensation and the greater societal issue of promoting IT as a career path for young women. In the end, employers need to recognize that both men and women are not only looking to be fairly compensated, but also desire to be mentored and challenged in their career. Those that don’t constantly strive to provide that challenge will end up losing top talent to the competition.” Here are some of the most interesting findings from the study:

  • Only 15%  of women believe that compensation is equal between men and women; only 38% of the male respondents do perceive equality (down from 46% the previous year).
  • It found that 13% of women working in IT believe there is not a “glass ceiling” that restricts their employment growth—down seven percentage points from 2010.
  • 34% of men believe there is no glass ceiling restricting women’s career growth in IT.
  • 28% of men believe that women have an advantage over men working in the IT field. At the same time, 16% of women would also agree with this statement.
  • According to respondents, 75% of women believe female workers face a different set of career challenges (well duh) than their male counterparts (compared to 55% of men).
  • When asked about the most important factors to men and women for career satisfaction, 28% of men chose compensation compared to 20% of women; whereas, 21% of women chose flexibility versus 14 percent of men. The biggest change over 2010 was that both sexes chose being challenged as the top factor at 34 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Another interesting finding from the study was that nearly all (84%) of women believe the IT field could use more women, compared to 67% of men. But more than half of both women and men felt that public campaigns highlighting IT as a good choice for women is the best way to convince young girls to choose technology as a career path. Only 20% of men and 18% of women believe that society encourages young women to study math and science. This is down by six percentage points for both demographics.

With less women going into the field or dropping out it is harder for new women coming into find mentors. The study found that the percentage of women who said they have or have had a mentor dropped six percentage points from 33%  in 2010 to 27% in 2011. Seventy-seven percent of women do not believe there are enough role models for women (versus 60% of men). Leah Eichler of Femmonics wrote in a piece for Women 2.0, “The common explanation for the absence of women at the top -– that they bow out of the work force to raise families and return to their careers at a much diminished level -– feels simplistic. Some women simply come to the realization that their goals have changed.” Psychologist Susan Pinker, author of The Sexual Paradox and a Globe and Mail columnist, said “Many educated women don’t just want to toe the party line.” She adds that men are more likely to put their head down and keep their eye on the prize, while women bristle in an environment they may find unsupportive or unfulfilling.

Dr. Jane LeClair, Dean of the School of Business and Technology at Excelsior College, recently wrote about women navigating the “Glass Maze” of technology. More than half of the women (56%) working in technology completely vanish in the middle of their careers. So even if these women stick with computer science through college they still may not finish their career in this field. She wrote:

“For every woman entering a tech field such as engineering or software development after college graduation, there is a higher chance she will leave the profession than she will finish her career. It’s really no wonder, then, that men hold nearly four out of five technology jobs. The industry will never achieve robust diversity until we figure out how to retain the women in their chosen technological fields.

Noted academics Nadya A. Fouad and Romila Singh describe this dynamic as “a variety of supports and barriers in the workplace that [are] structural, cultural and behavioral in nature.”

Photo: Dmitriy Shironosov/

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