Are Girls Still Not Attracted to Careers In Technology?

I’ve just finished reading a Cisco sponsored white paper on Women and ICT, commissioned by Insight. The observatory for new technologies and education.

It makes for depressing reading, although not altogether a surprise. Girls are still not attracted to ICT studies or careers. And it’s all about perception. The perception is that boys are more suited to careers in technology. And gals want to go into careers where they ‘help’ people. If I was a ball-scratching old fashioned gent, I might say Nursing for example…

It’s unequivocal too. A 100% of girls want to go into careers that ‘help’ people or ‘improve the world’ in some way. Less than a third of them think technology could give them this. Further, one in three females thought that the traditional stereotype of a (male) geek sitting in a darkened room coding, and never surfacing for air to meet people, was still relevant. These statistics reveal quite a skewed view of what a career in technology is all about.

Meanwhile, girls are still interested in technology in their secondary education, however when it gets to tertiary education the drop off rate is significant. It’s like the good news and the bad news. We potentially have the female talent, but they don’t see it as being relevant to them at all.

When I say I work in technology, folk immediately think I can take the back off a PC and rebuild it. I am constantly being asked to network PC’s (for the record I can actually do that) but I can no more rebuild a PC than drill my own teeth. The reason I went into a career in technology (and it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I did) was precisely to help and enable people through the use of technology. The potential power of people assisted by the right tools is what really turned me on to technology in the first place. I still find it thrilling and exciting. And it really is driven by the need to ‘help’. Ah yes, I am a female stereotype after all.

Careers in technology aren’t just about taking the back off a PC. They can be about enabling centres of medical excellence to come together globally, providing access to healthcare otherwise denied due to location and cost. It can be about enabling communication to isolated communities, bringing them together in virtual worlds. It can be about revolutionising the way justice is realised in our courts. And if that little lot isn’t exciting a gals requirement to ‘help’. What about technology enabling the generation of the most exquisite pair of Louboutins…Sadly girls they are no longer handmade.

I guess the question really is, does it matter if women go into careers in technology or not?

Personally I would look at it in reverse, in that it’s a massive loss of career opportunity for young women who are not continuing down that route.

Of the young women who do elect to continue into a career in technology, over half of them have a female mentor. Very telling. Perhaps a public – private collaboration could bust the myths that prevail in our industry, by giving access to authentic experiences and wider career opportunities. The statistics certainly support the view that by encouraging and supporting women in their exploration of a career in technology we will have a positive impact for the future.

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One Response to Are Girls Still Not Attracted to Careers In Technology?

  1. Carolyn says:

    Personally I blame the careers tutors or perhaps more fairly the education system. While I was working at a well known female educational establishment, which will remain nameless, I worked alongside many careers tutors and for many it was just an additional sideline for someone who had actually very little experience of what is out there. A careers tutor is a huge job and one, I believe, should be full time in itself – with the world evolving like it is, it requires constant research. How can a history or geography teacher have the time to do both? Just impossible.

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