IT Workforce Composition and Characteristics
Joshua L. Rosenbloom (University of Kansas & National Bureau of Economic Research, USA), Ronald A. Ash (University of Kansas, USA), LeAnne Coder (University of Kansas, USA) and Brandon Dupont (Wellesley College, USA)
Copyright: © 2006
Women are under represented in the information technology (IT) workforce. In the United States, although women make up about 45% of the overall labor force they make up only about 35% of the IT workforce. (Information Technology Association of America, 2003, p. 11). Within IT, women’s representation declines as one moves up to higher-level occupations. While women are relatively more numerous among data entry keyers and computer operators, they are relatively less likely to be found in high-level occupations like systems analysts and computer programmers. The relatively low representation of women in IT fields parallels a broader pattern of gender differentials in other scientific and technical fields. In all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields combined, women held 25.9% of jobs in 2003. Women’s representation varies widely by sub-fields, however; 65.8% of psychologists and 54.6% of social scientists are women, but only 10.4% of engineers, and 37.4% of natural scientists (Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 2004, p. 2). Over the course of the past 100 years, there has been a dramatic change in women’s economic role. In 1900, only one in five adult women worked outside the home, and most of these were young and unmarried (Goldin, 1990). Since then, male and female labor force participation rates have tended to converge. Between 1900 and 1950 there was a gradual expansion of women’s labor force participation. After World War II the pace of change accelerated sharply as more married women entered the labor force. During the 1960s and early 1970s a series of legal changes significantly broadened protection of women’s rights ending essentially all forms of overt discrimination (Fuchs, 1988; Long, 2001, p. 9-10). The removal of these barriers in combination with the availability of cheap and reliable birth control technology greatly facilitated the entry of women into higher education, and technical and professional positions (Goldin & Katz, 2002). Nevertheless, as the figures cited at the outset reveal, women’s participation in IT and other technical fields has not increased as rapidly as it has in less technical fields. And in striking contrast to the general trend toward increasing female participation in most areas of the workforce, women’s share of the IT workforce in the United States has actually declined over the past two decades. Any effort to explain gender differences in IT must begin with an understanding of how the number, characteristics, and pay of women in IT have evolved over time, and across different sub-fields within IT. This chapter provides a foundation for this analysis by documenting recent changes in the number of women employed in IT, their demographic characteristics, and relative pay.