Only one-quarter of women become interested in technology in high school or earlier, compared to almost half of men who become interested during the same time, according to the second annual Harvey Nash Women in Technology survey report. Men’s interest in technology is piqued much earlier than women’s.
Twice as many men than women report their interest started in elementary or middle school. Also, men are more likely than women to have entered IT through a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) track in college, 59 percent versus. 44 percent.
The survey findings point to a clear opportunity to engage women to enter the field of technology at an earlier age, potentially making a significant impact on the widespread gender disparity in IT careers today.
“The visibility and value of a STEM education has skyrocketed in the last decade, but we’re not yet seeing the full impact translate to the IT workplace,” Harvey Nash USA President and CEO Bob Miano stated in the survey report. “School and home life can spark the first interest for technology, but individuals, as well as companies, need to take action throughout the lifecycle of IT careers to keep that enthusiasm alive.”
“There’s no shortage of viable career opportunities for those with an IT interest, whether they become interested early or later,” Miano added. “Increasing and keeping women in IT is critical to meet the demand for tech talent in the midst of a permanent IT labor shortage.”
In addition to increasing the number of women in tech, the survey reveals ways to help women become more successful in their IT careers. Findings show that mentoring programs and company policies are proven strategies, particularly important since almost half of women cite lack of advancement opportunities as a major challenge in their jobs, compared to 26 percent of men. Women with more tenure – 8 or more years of experience or in a leadership role – find lack of advancement opportunities to be more pervasive than early-career women in tech.
‘Unwelcoming environment’ cited as major challenge
More than twice as many women as men say an unwelcoming environment to women and minorities is one of the greatest challenges working in IT. The number of women who feel this way remains mostly unchanged from last year at 29 percent, but the men who agree has nearly doubled – from 7 percent in 2016.
Thirty percent of women aren’t sure whether they will stay in IT for the rest of their careers, compared to only 17 percent of men who feel the same way. An unsupportive environment is the number one reason women left their last technology job. Furthermore, more than twice as many women than men say they left their last job in part due to unfair treatment by their team or manager – 26 percent of women versus 11 percent of men.