But why don’t more women work in data security, computer repair, network administration, and other IT-related industries? Is it their own choice? Is it an intentional decision by hiring managers? Or, is it societal? Sadly, the latter may be most to blame, and it creates a unique problem. Women (truly, all minorities) must be represented in every sector of our economy or we risk further alienating those groups while simultaneously creating inferior products.
The Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks, and Hispanics report drives home that point:
Given the ubiquity of the computing field in society, the diversity gap in computer science (CS) education today means the field might not be generating the technological innovations that align with the needs of society’s demographics. Women and certain racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in learning CS and obtaining CS degrees, and this cycle perpetuates in CS careers.
That report was an attempt to pinpoint factors that reduce minority exposure and involvement in IT-related fields and it consisted of interviews with thousands of students, parents, teachers, and principals. In the end, the authors came to a complicated conclusion (as is the norm for such an overarching and unique problem). There are a number of factors at play – lack of similar role models, scant opportunities and exposure, and limited encouragement from parents and teachers. Those factors appear to have a major influence.
Without support from parents and educators, most women do not pursue an education in computer science; only 18% of computer science majors were female, even though 57% of all Bachelor’s degree recipients are women. The disparity was enough to catch the attention of our former first lady Michelle Obama. At the most recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, she said, “Girls walk away from tech and science. … There’s something about how this subject is being taught. You guys are smarter than that. You’re better than that, let’s figure it out.”
The lack of inclusion leads to drastically skewed employment numbers in tech-related industries. Although women made up 57% of all professional occupations in 2016, they only accounted for 26% of those jobs in the IT industry. The numbers are even worse for Fortune 500 companies - only 20% of those firms have females in the Chief Information Officer (CIO) position. In fact, 72% of all senior executives at Fortune 500 companies are white males.
Recently, several companies have committed to changing those numbers. One such company, Accenture, the international consulting giant, employs nearly 400,000 people in over 100 countries. They currently employee 150,000 women, but they want that number to be 50% of their workforce by 2025. Accenture also wants to increase their percentage of managing directors to 25% by 2020. While Accenture is to be applauded, what is holding back the other 499…or any company for that matter?
There is a wealth of data that suggests employing women isn’t just fair, it is more profitable. A study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute revealed that companies with one female board member are 26% more profitable than companies with no women in executive leadership positions. There is also evidence that Fortune 500 companies with three female directors see an increase in ROI by 66% or more. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has worked in a mixed environment. People have individual skills, values, mindsets, and backgrounds. It wouldn’t make sense to hire all men or all women.
Hiring and promoting from one gender or race promotes narrow thinking and a limited skillset. That archaic practice can stifle innovation and critical thinking – both of which are essential traits in IT. A diverse talent pool brings a variety of backgrounds to the boardroom, which result in more well-rounded consumer products that appeal to a wider target market. If you won’t hire more women because it is fair and equal, hire them because your company will be much more profitable.