What’s the answer to solving the nation’s IT skills shortage and accelerate its pace of innovation globally? Women! Finally, a simple answer to a complex problem. Or, is it? The ability to greatly increase our country’s IT talent base through recruiting more women into the field appears to be a no-brainer on paper. Consider this:
- Roughly 1.2 million computing jobs will be available by 2022, and U.S. Universities are producing only 39 percent of the graduates needed to fill them. Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics forecasts a total of 13.5 million+ female college students in 2020 compared to just under 9.5 million males.
- The BLS calculates that women make up more than two-thirds of employees in 10 of the 15 job categories likely to grow fastest in the next few years.
- Nearly one billion women are poised to enter the global economy in the coming decade, and they receive the majority of college and advanced degrees.
So, the answer to solving the IT skills shortage seems to be WOMEN.
It would seem that, since there is an abundance of women ready to enter the market, it would make sense that Women are answer to the IT worker question. Sure does sound simple. Yet those of us in the IT field know all too well that women are dramatically under-represented, and this poses a serious situation for the economic prosperity of our companies and our nation. A recent New York Times article reported that women hold only 25 percent of IT jobs, and roughly half will eventually quit to pursue a completely different line of work.
Jennifer Turner, VisionIT Test Manager Consultant noted that “The IT Industry is uniquely poised to attract female employees because many technology positions lend themselves to the “work from anywhere” alternative. So many women are pulled in opposing directions by family and work responsibilities. The ability to work remotely offers a more flexible schedule and more time to work. This is one important key to attracting more women to the IT industry.”
This lack of women becomes a concern in the industry for a number of reasons. Demographic challenges, including an impending retirement of Baby Boomer IT workers, will leave large gaps in the IT sector. Consider as well, the products the technical industry creates are shaped by those who buy them, and women are quickly outpacing men when it comes to buying decisions and consumer spending. Women currently control 83 percent of all consumer purchases, including electronics.
As a woman in the male-dominated IT industry, I have seen first-hand the value, skills, and diversity that female IT workers can bring to organizations. For example, as Kirsten Wolberg, vice president of technology for PayPal recently commented, application development teams that include women as members are 10 to 15 percent more productive than those that don’t.
In addition to reviewing key components that are important to the current female work force, some awareness and planning with the future female work force should be considered. Angela Lowe, VisionIT QA Analyst Consultant feels that “If we encourage our young women starting early on especially in areas of Mathematics and Science I believe this could lead to an IT route.” She also noted that she had a few strong mentors when she entered the work force as a young woman in an entry level support role.
Collectively, our sector needs to improve on a number of fronts to curb the exodus of women from our field, and to encourage more to join it. Stay tuned for more posts about how we can work together to help turn this challenge into a prosperous opportunity.