|Home > Special Insight Reports > EUN White Paper: Why girls are still not attracted to ICT studies and careers|
Special Insight Reports
28 July 2009 I Lucia Sali
EUN White Paper: Why girls are still not attracted to ICT studies and careers
The ICT gender gap is not close to end as stereotyped thinking continues to impact females’ choice for tech careers, a study and white paper by European Schoolnet (EUN) published in June 2009 shows. “Women and ICT. Why are girls still not attracted to ICT studies and careers?”, commissioned by CISCO and authored by Agueda Gras-Velazquez, Alexa Joyce and Maïté Debry, highlights that although they like ICT studies and are competent ICT users, most girls drop out after secondary education. Lack of support from role models, stereotyped views that the sector is better suited to men, and a lack of understanding about what ICT jobs involve reveal to be the main inhibitors. To invert the trend EUN calls for closer cooperation between education agencies and ministries together with industry, and to better mainstream already existing initiatives.A European context of skills shortages
In a context where Europe is about to face a shortage of 70,000 skilled workers in the tech sector by 2010 and at the same time EU economy target’s is to achieve competitiveness through the development of the knowledge society, the relatively low representation of women in ICT-related jobs is a major concerns: the recruitment of more females in the tech sector could help close this gap. But still, proportionally fewer girls are currently entering the ICT sector even from a relatively early age (tertiary education onward), despite being regular leisure users of ICT tools.
Focus on teenage girls’ and boys’ attitude to ICT and ICT careers
The study objectives examined teenage girls and boys’ attitude to ICT and ICT careers in secondary schools; verify whether there are differences in perception and/or aptitude between the genders; understand what might be putting girls off further studies and careers in ICT by both looking at the impact of role models on study and careers choices as well as assessing to what extent negative stereotypes affect girls’ career choices in relation to ICT; and develop recommendations on the basis of the research.
Therefore the study carried out by EUN especially focused on girls aged 15 to 18, the crucial ‘pre-university’ phase for secondary school-girls during which the decision making process about subject specialisation at upper secondary and university level starts taking shape. Five European countries (France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and United Kingdom) representative of different levels of ICT integration in both education and wider society were selected, and pilot schools identified in each country. Ad hoc surveys targeted both genders of three groups: students, teachers and parents.
Girls still held back by stereotyped thinking, but trends may be changing
Girls’ drop out of ICT mainly takes place after secondary education. The study has found that this fact can be due partly to lack of support from role models, persistent stereotyped views that the sector is better suited to men, a lack of understanding about what ICT jobs entail and, in some cases, how easy or difficult they find the subject. However, a key finding is that girls generally like and enjoy ICT studies and are competent users of computers and computer operating systems.
More in particular:
- Girls are roughly equal to boys in aptitude in ICT at secondary level.
- Most girls enjoy studying ICT however this enjoyment does not often transmit into careers.
- Female role models generally exert strong influence on girls making decisions about further study/careers.
- These role models are not ‘tech-savvy’ – however most mothers surveyed are positive about ICT. Where mothers are most positive, daughters share these positive attitudes.
- Both students and role models generally believe that technology is better suited to men.
- Neither girls nor role models see ICT roles offering them chances to travel, to help others or to work independently. However feedback from Cisco HR and employees from a range of business functions including sales and engineering point to discrepancies between these perceptions and what tech workers think. This suggests that in many instances, teachers and parents are poorly educated about what ICT really entails.
A comparative analysis of the country findings pointed out the following issues:
- Polish female students have the most positive view towards ICT, ICT jobs and Internet networking careers, followed by Italy and the UK.
- Dutch female students have the most negative view and see ICT networking careers as better suited to men.
- In general, 50% fewer female students are interested in studying ICT in the future compared to the percentage that report liking ICT at school.
- Except in the Netherlands, over 50% of students are influenced by role models (parents, celebrities and teachers). In particular, male students look to male role models, and girls to female role models.
- In general, the research found positive attitude towards ICT from female parents, especially in Poland, Italy and France – although this was much less the case in the Netherlands.
How to close the ICT gender gap?
The under-representation of women in ICT represents a double talent loss, both for industry which moreover will be soon affected by skills shortages, and for women themselves, who miss further opportunities to enter the labour market. This gender gap will not be closed until more is done to educate, support and encourage girls and their role models.
In this respect, public-private partnership and collaboration could play a major role in changing perceptions about industry by giving access to more realistic and authentic information about ICT and ICT careers. In particular, closer cooperation education agencies and Ministries, together with industry, are needed to ensure accurate information about ICT is available to teachers, pupils and their parents. Numerous initiatives have been launched, but the mainstreaming of such initiatives is required to have a systemic impact.
- Download the full white paper and study “Women and ICT. Why are girls still not attracted to ICT studies and careers?” by Agueda Gras-Velazquez, Alexa Joyce and Maïté Debry:
- Report “Women in IT. The European situation and the role of public-private partnerships in promoting greater participation of young women in technology” by M. Durando, P. Wastiau and A. Joyce:
- e-Skills Career Portal:
- European Round Table of Industrialists
- Women’s Forum
Web Editor: Lucia Sali
Last changed: Friday, 21 August 2009
Last changed: Friday, 21 August 2009