Childhood Interest in Computers and Adult Career Choices in IT

Childhood Interest in Computers and Adult Career Choices in IT

Paul F. Cleary (Northeastern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch016
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A considerable amount of interest in the past several years has been devoted to the characteristics and dynamics of the fast-growing information technology (IT) industry in the United States (U.S.). Particular attention has been focused on how gains from increasing computer and Internet use are distributed across society. Do all segments of society enjoy the same level of access and use of computers and the Internet, or do some segments of society benefit more from computer and Internet use than others? This question has engaged a widespread and prolonged debate surrounding the issues of fairness of IT participation and use in the U.S. By the same token, many in recent years have also focused on how interest in IT and computer and Internet use are distributed across society. In this article, I focus attention on gender participation in IT: Are there differences in both interest in IT as a profession, and computer and Internet use across the U.S., and do these differences persist among young people? While there is considerable evidence that gaps in Internet access and use by gender have largely disappeared (Mossberger, Tolbert, & Stansbury, 2003; Companie, 2001; Norris, 2001; Warschauer, 2003), there is a growing concern that differences in interest in the IT industry by gender are, in fact, widening. Although evidence suggests that the societal gender gap in Internet access and use has largely disappeared, a gender gap in IT professions still exists and, in fact, is widening. Measuring the magnitude of the gap is complicated because there are varying definitions as to which occupations comprise the core IT professions. Using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Current Population Survey (CPS), Meares and Sargent identify four core IT occupations: computer scientists, computer engineers, systems analysts, and computer programmers (1999, pp. 3-4), while The Council of Economic Advisors identifies five core IT occupations: electrical and electronic engineers, computer systems analysts and scientists, operations and systems researchers and analysts, computer programmers, and computer operators (The Council of Economic Advisors, 2000, p. 3). Assuming that working in an IT occupation constitutes interest in the field, then if the level of participation among women in IT declines, presumably, so does their interest in the IT industry.

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