ICT Gender Gap: Stereotyped Thinking Continues to Impact Females' Choice for Tech Careers
A high number of female students are not pursuing further studies or careers in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, despite having good basic computing skills, according to a study and white paper by European Schoolnet, commissioned by Cisco.
- The study, which covers students, parents and teachers of both genders in five European countries, reveals that there is boys and girls are roughly equal in their aptitude for, and enjoyment of, ICT at the secondary level.
- Many female students go on to study technology at tertiary levels. However, the majority do not intend to pursue careers in the technology sector.
- Europe is facing a shortfall of skilled ICT workers over the next few decades. Reports point to 70,000 unfilled jobs in the tech sector by 2010.
- In parallel, Europe’s working population is predicted to shrink as a result of changing demographics and an aging workforce, a situation that could be significantly alleviated by increasing the recruitment and retention of women across the board.
- Women are currently underrepresented in the ICT sector. In 2004 females represented less than 25 percent of all computing graduates in the EU-27.
- In Poland, Italy, U.K., France and the Netherlands, the majority of girls surveyed were interested in ICT. However, up to 50 percent dropped out of further studies and ICT career paths.
- According to analysis of the findings, the single most de-motivating factor is the view that the tech sector is inherently better suited to men.
“Girls in my generation are not really encouraged to go into IT. A lot of girls get into the sector via vocational colleges, and it can be intimidating being the only girl in a group of boys.” said Dawn Breen, a Cisco Networking Academy graduate now working in ICT support for a software company in the UK.
“I would not hesitate to recommend a career in technology to any young woman who is seriously contemplating it. In my experience, once you make it into a job, females are very successful. The industry is changing, and there are more and more places for women to go and to aspire to. My message to girls would be: You won’t be the only one, so don’t deny yourself a great opportunity.”
“Falling interest in maths, science and technology subjects at secondary and tertiary level is a problem in many European countries. This kind of research can help us better understand the issue and identify strategies - often based on multi-stakeholder initiatives - to improve the situation,” said Marc Durando, Executive Director of European Schoolnet.
The study can be downloaded from http://www.eun.org/whitepaper.
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Telephone the European Schoolnet office on +32 2 790 7590.