Why don’t women do IT?

Women’s presence in the IT workforce is appallingly low, a fact so renowned it even deserves its own wikipedia page.

As with all socio-cultural phenomena, it is difficult to pin it down to any specific reason; however, education and gender-related stereotypes have been blamed among the major causes of women’s lack of interest in IT careers.

A recent paper at ECIS 2015 conference commented the results of ’Digital Divas’, an experimental high school program launched in several secondary schools across Australia.

The program was aimed at increasing girls’ involvement and confidence in the IT through a course specifically tailored to meet girls’ interests.
The study report contains some interesting clues, highlighting what are some rather unexpected stumbling blocks for women in considering an IT career.

  • an all-female learning environment made a huge difference to the girls involved. Many revealed that when sitting in regular IT classes (where the gender ratio is very much skewed towards boys) they would shy away from intervening, influenced by the stereotype that boys must know more
  • the way IT subjects are taught also impacted strongly on girls’ attitude towards the IT. Many considered IT subjects to be “too theoretical, rigidly structured and boring”. Group work, collaborations and creative input completely changed the girls’ opinion about IT

Some people think that if girls are not interested in computing and IT jobs we should let the matter stay because this is just the way things are.
I think this is plain wrong. It is wrong because closing the gender gap in IT would bring about all the benefits of gender diversity. But it is also wrong because, as highlighted by this research program, girls’ interest in the IT is something that can be frustrated, but it can also be strenghtened, from the school years.

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