Institutional Characteristics and Gender Choice in IT

Institutional Characteristics and Gender Choice in IT

Mary Malliaris (Loyola University Chicago, USA) and Linda Salchenberger (Northwestern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch127
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While the issue of attracting women to information technology professions has been studied extensively since the 1970s, the gender gap in IT continues to be a significant social and economic problem (Thom, 2001). Numerous research studies have been conducted to understand the reasons for the gender gap in IT (Gurer & Camp, 2002; Sheard, Lowe, Nicholson, & Ceddia, 2003; von Hellens, Nielsen, & Beekhuyzen, 2004). Universities and colleges have developed a variety of programmatic efforts to apply gender gap research results, implementing strategies that increase female undergraduate enrollment in computer science programs (Wardle & Burton, 2002). Yet, individual successes have not translated into any significant change in the overall percentages of women choosing IT. An analysis of current choices of women in their selection of four-year undergraduate institutions reveals yet another alarming trend—young women are not choosing to study IT at the traditional academic four year institutions that would best prepare them for the IT professional careers of the future. To complicate matters, the information technology job market is changing rapidly. For example, some well-documented IT trends that are causing such shifts are outsourcing, the commoditization of IT, the effect of the dot com bust on the job market, and most importantly, the integration of IT into the fundamental economic, social and cultural fabric of our society. IT now permeates every aspect of professional work, even the traditional female-oriented occupations such as nursing and teaching. This integration of IT into the professions must guide the development of a new set of strategies to insure that women have equal opportunities and access to the benefits of an education that prepares them for professional careers. It is in the best interest of the IT profession and our society in general to help young women make choices that include the pursuit of information technology.

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