Where the Girls At? Not in IT

The numbers don’t lie. Jobs in technology are moving full steam ahead. In just a few years, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that there will be more than 1 million high-tech jobs in the market – but companies will only be able to fill about half of them. Why? Well, it may have to do with the (declining) numbers of women going into and staying in the field.

It’s true. IT has long been a male-dominated field. Even at its peak in the early 90s, women still only held 36 percent of all computing jobs in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And even those numbers have been on the decline ever since. Only about 17 percent of all computer science grads are women, according to the Department of Education. It’s not that women “don’t like” IT. In fact, according to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, almost three quarters of women in technology reported “loving their work.” So, what’s the deal?

More than half of technical women leave their company when they reach the mid-level point. From wage gaps to assumed family responsibilities, a report by the National Center for Women & Information Technology outlines what keeps women in the shadows among their male peers. For the few that stick it out, the classic double standard is a barrier for many.

There are some silver linings. Universities such as Harvey Mudd, Stanford and Berkeley have seen an uptick in female computer science majors. Campaigns like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook’s Ban Bossy, are empowering girls to harness leadership skills from an early age. And more high-tech companies are embracing flexible work schedules, mentorship programs and advancement opportunities for women. Hopefully, these initiatives help reverse the trend so that more high-tech women enter and stay in the field.

Are you a woman working in the technology industry? Share your experience and weigh in on the discussion. Leave a comment below.