CXO

Women in tech: Under-represented and paid less

Girls do better than boys in tech exams - so why don't they want to join the industry?

Women are still massively under-represented in the tech world - and the problem is likely to get worse rather than better.

Last year less than one in six - a mere 16 percent - of the 1,129,000 people working as IT specialists in the UK were women. Of the 753,000 people working in the IT sector, just one in five were women and only one in ten IT workers in the IT industry were female.

And at £640 per week, the median gross weekly rate of pay for female IT specialists was 16 percent (£120) less than the figure for men working in IT roles (£760) and the level of pay for women IT roles has been consistently below that of male IT specialists in each of the past 10 years, according to the analysis by tech employers body e-skills and IT professionals body the BCS .

They warn the gender imbalance throughout the tech industry must be resolved if the UK is to meet the growing demand for IT professionals: e-skills calculates there is a need for around 129,000 new entrants a year into tech job roles through to 2015, with a minimum of around 22,600 likely to be filled by people joining from education.

Gillian Arnold, chairperson of BCSWomen, said: "The continuing decline in women entering the IT profession is a real threat for the UK and an issue that clearly we need to address."

She said while progress is being made in some areas: for example, an increase in the number of women working in IT part-time, it's still not enough.

"We know girls and women are good at computing and we need to translate that ability into action, and inspire them to see IT as a career option that offers them great career opportunities," she said.

Employers argue that the key to reducing the gender imbalance lies in schools, colleges and universities - which is where the gender divide starts. Fewer girls take tech GCSEs with the gap increasing at A-Level and continuing into higher education and from there into the professional workforce.

"The lack of females taking IT related qualifications directly impacts upon the proportion of females that are employed today as IT specialists," the report says. And the problem is getting worse as the number of girls taking IT qualifications continues to decline: "the employment situation is likely to worsen further - unless there are some significant and meaningful interventions," the report warned.

It's worth noting that when girls do take part in computing subjects at GCSE and A-Level they outperform boys. The research shows that 76.3 per cent of females (compared to 69.2 per cent of males) who took an IT related full course GCSE were awarded A*- C grades.

Further reading

Want the right techie for the job? Employ more women

Google's gender gap: Why is technology still a man's world?

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

27 comments
adkmom
adkmom

RE: paychecks. Rather than worry about age/"experience", credentials, etc...why not focus instead on what really matters?  The best successful outcome in the least amount of time. This is what keeps a place humming- all the plaques hanging on walls in the world won't guarantee a person is skilled like putting it to the test. That eliminates male/female/young/old arguments.


RE: women in tech- this will remain a he said/she said argument because many (not all) men simply deny the inequality exists, actively participate (boys club)- or find excuses allowing it. 

Most of this stems from the original (still) patriarchal structure of society. Men were paid more because "they had a family to care for". The single working woman was only working until she "found her man" & was looked down upon until that time. Not that the inequality in pay was right- it was just accepted- as it unfortunately appears to still be. Later, when more & more women joined the workforce out of the family's needs (rising cost of living + outsourcing moving high-paying jobs away)- women's disproportionately lower pay remained.


Since the old excuse didn't quite fit any longer, the new one was, "women don't get paid as much as men because they'll leave to have children". Because they leave, they lose respect & stature in their fields. If they stay, they lose respect & stature as a sort of "failed non-mother" who selfishly chose her career. Lose/lose.

I have to think: that if a married working couple were simply paid equally, and decided to raise a family, then the father could as easily take over the role of primary carer. That would free each partner to keep in the loop in their careers. They could alternate putting in time to both family & jobs. But, if a female partner continues to earn far less than her make counterpart, it essentially becomes a decision of giving up a career or paying the rent.



R.j. Skoks
R.j. Skoks

Don't they do better at exams in general?

superdesigngirl
superdesigngirl

Right on, brotha! I find that men are afraid of women joining the IT world, more competition? I'd love to see more women like me in IT, it is intimidating to ask questions when all your peers are males, but I still do. I love what I do and I'm good at it. So who cares what gender you are? That's why I believe hiring managers should receive resumes with the name blacked out. It should be based on who is qualified to do the job not the gender. Katherine.

Hlms Km
Hlms Km

I heard from one potential employer , that I would want to stay home with my child and if i met a guy i would move away (that employer has went through 3 males since then btw lol )

jefferyp2100
jefferyp2100

Woman are choosing other careers? They don't know IT has good paying jobs? Maybe they just aren't interested.

Shawn Quinn
Shawn Quinn

I'm an IT admin. I get things done. But those tests are extremely hard. I find passing them even harder than doing the job.

peter
peter

I really don't understand my boss, why on earth would he pay me 20% more than an equally capable woman? Is he gay?

info
info

I have to say I also fall into the 'who cares' category. If my work gets done properly, who cares who does it? As for being chronically underpaid, *I* fall into that category because of a laid-back attitude. I've had many a co-worker that ended up getting paid more because they asked and fought for it. I'm sure a lot of women aren't willing to do that, either.


What about the stories of women that hold Doctorates in Astrophysics yet take up careers in modelling? I know someone that went to years of Law school, passed the bar exam, then promptly opened up her own dance studio. It's not just IT that has seen this pattern. I also take issue with studies that show 'many thousands of jobs will need to be filled over the next few years'. Where? Why do these jobs usually end up never hiring anyone because everyone is under or over-qualified, or the job itself vanishes? Why are foreign workers suddenly necessary to fill these 'vacancies', and incidentally merit wages that are 25% lower than the going rate?


I hate being manipulated by business leaders, government, and 'do-gooder' politically correct activists. I'm sure a lot of these studies are motivated by other agendas... Do I want to see more women in IT? Sure I do, so long as they're competent. But I'm not going to FORCE them into it. They are free to make their own choices, whether we understand and agree with them or not.

Mind the Gap
Mind the Gap

On underrepresentation
I'll give a true story my husband told me last night as told to him by a male leader in American Veterans Affairs. He got involved in a recent "women" Veterans conference -- the first of its kind. Tons of women showed up and he was floored because for 15 years he'd been putting these conferences on and no women had showed up even though they are a significant proportion of veterans and the marketing was directed equally to them. In their evaluation sheets, they asked women WHY they attended. Over and over, they heard, "because I FELT SAFE to attend." Really?! He was stunned, but I am not. 


This, my brothers, is a piece of the issue. Women do not feel socially and physically unsafe and economically insecure because of a few, but very focal and unchecked misogynists and willfully-ignorant collaborators like @Chris. People including women are willing to work hard and for less pay if they like their jobs and a big part of a job is the culture of respect and belonging. Women in IT are going to encounter more abuse and isolation than in other fields. Men can feel this in women-dominated fields, but at least they don't have to worry about being assaulted  physically. 


Last week, I was at a internal IT conference for my company.  The keynote speaker gave the usual number of anecdotes. I'm sure he didn't realize that the few examples with a woman were negative (the snotty secretary, the dopey database admin).  During the only workshop I went to, the speaker had an awkward moment when he realized that he had 5 women in the room and a few of his slides were demeaning to women. At least he felt embarrassed. This didn't lessen the hurt to those of us with vaginas, of course. 


Just isolated incidents you say? Balogna. Even a rock can be wore down by tiny drops of water over time. This crap gets old. 

chris
chris

Even if these bogus feminist-derived statistics were true (they aren't) why is it such a problem if women dont want to be engineers?  Men dont want to be nurses either, but I notice that isnt even in the top ten list of feminist first-world problems.  Who cares???

yawningdogge
yawningdogge

Scoring high on an exam and being a competent IT professional are two very different things. I must know a dozen people with certs/degrees (including the women I work with) who don't know an IP address from a hole in the ground. The only ones that care about certs/degrees are HR departments. It was Einstein who said "Any fool can know. The point is to understand."


I know one woman who would be fantastic at IT. She's smart, educated, driven, has a brilliantly analytical mind, and is good at dealing with men. She's my wife, and she couldn't be less interested.


I know one other woman who has a four-year degree in IS from a pretty good school. She owns a nail/tanning salon. Good thing - she's dumber than a bag of hammers.

billfranke
billfranke

Once again we have to hear about this 50% phony issue.


The real half is pay inequality, but that isn't limited to a gender bias. There will always be such inequalities as long as individual employers and employees are allowed (whether they should be or not is part of a political and policy agenda, and not necessarily one that includes sexism) to secretly negotiate salaries or whether there should be known and published standardized pay grades in business as there are in civil service and military jobs. I won't argue either way, because both policies are flawed. And I work for myself, so I set my own fees based on what I know others who do my kind of work charge.


The phony half is somebody's gender-equality agenda based on the dubious metaphysic that because the population is almost evenly divided between males and females, the work force should also be so divided in every area and at every level. This is no different from declaring one's personal religion to be the true faith: pure BS. I won't bother with arguments for and against the meaningless term "gender equality" (paradoxes are always illogical and as real as other mythological and political chimeras). "Equal pay for equal work" is not a paradox or an unreasonable demand, but business isn't behind this idea, so what's the point of even discussing it? It's got to be forced or forgotten. Tell your elected officials and their constituents that this is what you want by voting for politicians who believe in and can deliver a more equitable world....Well, of course you can't! There are no such animals. Look at who is constantly reelected in the UK and the USA and all of the rest of the world's democracies! People bought and sold by the vested interested and given the imprimatur of the masses who know that handing the world over to what Plato labeled as philosopher kings would merely generate a new and equally obnoxious culture and society. You can't please all of the people all of the time.


Ranger's most compelling argument is here: "It's worth noting that when girls do take part in computing subjects at GCSE and A-Level they outperform boys. The research shows that 76.3 per cent of females (compared to 69.2 per cent of males) who took an IT related full course GCSE were awarded A*- C grades."


If women are better at IT, then there sure as hell should be a lot more women in the field. Why aren't there? The standard response is that it's a sexist field. Well, that's the standard excuse for all allegedly discriminatory situations. Sometimes it's true and sometimes it isn't.


Ranger doesn't question this interesting rationalization: "Employers argue that the key to reducing the gender imbalance lies in schools, colleges and universities - which is where the gender divide starts." The meaning of this sentence is "Don't blame the companies that comprise the IT industry! We don't discriminate. It's the schools that teach children that IT is for men and not women." Horse pucky!


Most women who can do IT jobs don't/ want to work for IT companies simply because the jobs aren't that appealing. Women must be generally smarter than men. If they weren't, more of them would be working in IT and suffering what male IT workers do. Until IT companies make their jobs attractive to potential female employees, the field will continue to be dominated by men, who, it seems, will accept any kind of work that allows them to put bread on the table and lite beer in the belly. A lot of men take their "Well, I wouldn't kick her out of bed" mentality to job interviews. And then they wonder why they suffer from OTEDs (occupationally transmitted emotional diseases) like stress.


The bottom line: if IT companies wanted to hire women IT workers, they'd do it because it's good business, not because it's good politics. Let's cut to the chase and face the real problems here.


James Donelson
James Donelson

All the women who completed the courses had it pretty easy getting hired.

Emily Harris
Emily Harris

More prominent role models would help! Hard to dream to be what you can't see.

Barbara J Stamm
Barbara J Stamm

Maybe they want to but employers find an excuse not to hire them so they are discouraged.

Shanita White
Shanita White

Kirsty Mimi Chartier I agree!!! We rock! !!!!

Kirsty Mimi Chartier
Kirsty Mimi Chartier

cause only confident women can handle predominantly male environment and it is a competitive industry...I personally prefer it :)

dominicolom
dominicolom

I'm sure that they are comparing Females and Males with the same level of experience.  Pay should be equal and solely based on experience.  Gender should not even be a reason why someone would get paid less.


As a female I have been a victim of this where I, having more experience then my male co-worker, was paid less.  I am just glad i left that job and found a better job where I was paid based only on my experience.



jilindi
jilindi

These data about bias in compensation needs better explanation. While the male/female ratio can hardly be disputed, the median gross weekly rate of pay for female IT specialists may be skewed lower for perfectly acceptable reasons.

Question - Is median years experience for female IT specialists lower than median years experience for male IT specialists?

Probably is because more females choose to leave the workforce force (temporarily or permanently) to focus on child care than their male counterparts do. Also, females entering the workforce in larger numbers now than 20 years ago also  lowers the median years experience for female IT specialists.

Of course a bias will appear if we say this group of younger IT specialists is paid less than older IT specialists. That would be an acceptible bias.

Is there a  compensation bias if we compare female versus male  IT specialists with 1 year experience? ...with 10 years experience? ...with 20 years experience?

Compare apples to apples before we cry foul.

tech_girls_ru
tech_girls_ru

@chris Excuse me and what makes you an authority on how accurate these statistics numbers are? Equating "bogus" and "feminist-derived" by guys like you in the tech industry is part of the problem. You ARE the reason more women don't join IT ranks. Because of the pervasive attitudes like yours. 


As far as who cares... Well I DO. A whole lot as a senior women in a hard core software engineering role. Because I am tired of being the only woman on IT team. Because founding successful tech companies is one way to power and money. Because I am tired of seeing adolescent immature boys running the IT industry. 

adkmom
adkmom

@yawningdogge Dumber than a box of hammers yet owns her own business?

Intelligence, as you started to make a valid point about, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

@billfranke See above for my explanation why Ranger's most compelling argument is seriously flawed.

kevin.cline
kevin.cline

@dominicolom Why should pay be based solely on experience?  There are enormous differences in the productivity of software developers that are unrelated to experience.  Some new graduates are terrific, some people with twenty years experience are hopeless.

tbmay
tbmay

@jilindi Agree you with.  But we're so determined in western culture to be offended about something, now it has to be gender pay inequality in I.T.  Let me qualify by saying if a woman and a man are equally skilled, experienced, credentialed, etc, they should be paid the same; however, nobody ever said life was fair.


Getting apples to apples is very tough though because skills are often difficult to measure.  I certainly don't think a simple "years of experience" approach is effective regardless of whether we're talking about gender or something else.  In some environments people can drool at their desk for 40 years.


Given recent findings that the unemployment rate for both men and women with STEM backgrounds is high relative to other backgrounds, my real question is why are men OR women still attracted to it as a career choice.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

@tech_girls_ru Unfortunately there is an obvious flaw in the throw away statistic regarding girls and boys taking GCSE computing subjects. The samples are not equivalent due to there already having been a greater selection bias on the girls taking GCSE computing subjects, or more accurately a de-selection bias. Those girls who would not do particularly well are socially pressured not to take the subjects which statistically improves the quality of their sample group. Or conversely those boys who would not do particularly well are not dissuaded.


Either way the statistic is fundamentally flawed and is the type of throw away statistic that really irritates me and helped give rise to the phrase "Lies, damned lies, and statistics". I note,as usual, that there is no link to where the figures came from or how the research was performed.


Yet the more worrying part of this article is to what degree women are treated less equally than men, that it occurs I am in no doubt just as I know that taller people are more likely to be promoted. I wish and hope that eventually a more meritocratic system will be established and that the only barriers and inequalities will be based solely on ones own abilities, but that is a way off.


PS using the phrase "adolescent immature boys running the IT industry" isn't helping your case.



tech_girls_ru
tech_girls_ru

@Adrian Watts @tech_girls_ru Yes agreed not helping my case. Was said in the moment of frustration. But you know when they present apps like "TitShare" at TechCrunch Disrupt http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-a-hackathon-got-bro-trolled-by-titstare/ my epithet is not all that off. Don't you think? Having worked in large corporations and startups throughout my career, startup scene seems to be a lot conducive to this behavior. Perhaps, party because their HR departments are outsourced?

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