Breaking Barriers: What Women in Information Technology (IT) are Doing
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Renetta English, an adjunct instructor of information technology (IT) at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), hadn't planned to pursue a career in IT.
“But when I wrote my first piece of code in college, I knew this was a field for me,” she said.
Since then, English said that she’s held different roles across various industries, from programming to project management and more. She currently works as a business analyst supervisor and computer systems manager at an organization that provides benefits for active and retired workers in New York City.
English's journey highlights the numerous opportunities for women interested in a career in the IT field.
What Percentage of the IT Industry is Female?
Despite growth over the past few years, women are still underrepresented in the IT industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the U.S. workforce in 2023, women made up:
- 19.3% of information security analyst roles
- 19.4% of web developer roles
- 27.7% of computer and informational systems management positions
- 37.8% of computer systems analysts roles
Although these numbers reveal an existing gender gap, some tech companies are striving to bridge the gender gap in the IT industry.
Do Tech Companies Want to Hire Women?
More and more, tech companies are recognizing that women bring unique perspectives to the table.
“Diversity is key,” said English. “... We bring our ability to multitask (and) critical thinking skills.” She said that women can provide unique insights to companies as they develop their products and services.
This proves to be true at some of the top companies in the technology industry, which have actively expressed interest in diversifying their workforce with more women.
Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, chief diversity officer and corporate vice president of Talent Development at Microsoft, said, “Our goal has always been to broaden the range of perspectives and experiences that make up our workforce to unlock innovation for our employees, customers and the planet" (Microsoft PDF Source).
In 2023, women made up 31.2% of the core Microsoft workforce worldwide, according to Microsoft's 2023 Global Diversity and Inclusion Report. Microsoft said that women occupied 25.8% of technical roles at the company.
Microsoft isn’t the only company aiming to diversify its workforce.
In 2023, Google expanded talent programs across their company to help increase representation, particularly among women in tech leadership positions, according to its annual diversity report (Google PDF Source).
As of 2023, Dell reported that 24.5% of its technical roles are filled by women, up from 22.8% in 2022 (Dell PDF Source). According to Dell’s 2023 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report, the organization is tackling gender disparity issues head-on by using targeted recruiting and hiring programs to reach underrepresented groups.
"Women seeing other women in the industry is so important," said English.
What is the Role of Women in the IT Industry?
Today, technology is increasingly prominent in every aspect of life, which means various opportunities are available for women in the tech. According to Stephanie Dolloff ‘17G manager of Virtual Labs at SNHU, women's unique perspectives and experiences can drive innovation, economic opportunity and growth.
There are many different types of IT jobs, such as:
Various industries have a need for tech professionals, too, according to English, such as healthcare, financial services, nonprofit and city government.
“Technology has become a cornerstone in modern interactions of all types and on a global scale,” said Dolloff. “By reducing the gender divide, women in IT contribute their unique perspectives, life experiences and emotional connections.”
After earning a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology from SNHU, Dolloff said she was interested in learning more about technologies that could help to make more accessible learning environments. (The master's in instructional design and technology program is not currently offered at SNHU, but there is a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Technology Integration.)
“The best place for me to do that was right here at SNHU,” she said, “which is where I began my career in higher education in the Global Campus Academic Technology department.”
According to Dolloff, the Virtual Lab Solutions Delivery Team focuses on cloud-based platforms and technologies. These virtual labs allow students and instructors to use software relevant to their courses.
“Students can access the virtual labs from anywhere in the world (with internet connection), at any time of the day, and 365 days of the year, making learning possible anywhere and at any time,” said Dolloff.
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Is it Hard to Be a Woman in Tech?
While some progress has been made, many women still deal with gender bias, stereotypes and negative cultures at their workplace.
According to the TrustRadius 2021 report, 63% of women in engineering and IT have experienced "bro culture.” This type of culture is often described as male-dominated, competitive and toxic. This can lead to stress and pressure on women, who also may not receive the same support as their male coworkers.
Mothers are also 114% more likely to take a break in their career than fathers are, according to Dr. Pam Cohen, chief research and analytics officer at the Mom Project. Some organizations, such as Dell, offer programs for those who have left the workforce for any reason.
According to its 2023 Environmental, Social and Governance Report, Dell strives to foster an accepting and collaborative workplace and provides its leadership with training that helps them recognize their own biases. The organization said it also offers resources to help leaders support their team members.
While being a woman in tech can come with challenges, it can also aid in personal and professional growth.
According to Monika Sharma '22G, who earned a Master of Science in Information Technology from SNHU, being a young woman in STEM has made her more independent.
"It’s improved my thought process and way of thinking," she said. "Not just work-perspective, but how to be a better human being, how to be more empathetic.”
Sharma was an international student from Hyderabad, India. During her program, she had an opportunity to create a chatbot for International Student Services.
“That was something I would never try, so that’s very special,” she said. “It gave me an option to explore.” She noted that her professors were very supportive throughout the project.
What are the Barriers to Women in Tech?
A lack of support, guidance and visible representation can be a barrier to women in the tech industry.
“I feel that (it’s) important for women in technology to mentor young women and men, especially students of color, to consider careers in information technology,” said English.
Mentorship programs can empower women and provide them with the tools they need to navigate a career in IT. English suggested looking into organizations such as:
- Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA)
- Grace Hopper Celebration
- National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
- Women in Technology
“I would like to personally thank women in tech, like Dr. Sharon Kibbe, who has been a mentor (during) my years at SNHU,” said English. “Having a mentor, especially a woman in tech, is critical to discuss career progression and so much more.”
Sharma agrees that having support is critical.
“Talk to people,” said Sharma, who welcomes LinkedIn connections and conversations. “There are people who will help you.”
Ashleigh Worley '22 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at SNHU. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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