Dear girls and women,
A huge growing sector of the economy needs you.
But we’ve found you don’t really want it. This it turns out is causing some unintended problems.
“Right now, IT and engineering professionals are coding the machines that are going to be running so many aspects of our society,” Kylie Walker – CEO of Science and Technology Australia – said for the ABC.
“If there’s a homogeneity in that group, then they are – without even knowing it – programming their own biases and their own worldviews into the way that machines learn. It is actually an urgent and existential issue.”
But in 2020, we asked university-bound Year 12s what degrees they’re interested in studying and found that ‘IT’ was chosen by 11% of males compared to only 2% of females. This means females are five times less interested in IT than males. If you took a room of 100 female university students, just 2 would be interested in doing IT.
That’s a shame because IT is a future-proof career. An estimated 60,000 more IT jobs are needed per year over the next five years while only 7,000 students graduated with an IT degree in 2019, a 2021 report from Deloitte Access Economics and Australian Computer Science found.
So why aren’t more females choosing IT?
For one, negative stereotypes. Professor of Information Sciences and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies, Eileen Trauth, found such misconceptions. Here are two big ones.
Misconception #1: IT professionals sit at their screens all day without human interaction. Truth: Not all of them. Many IT workers collaborate closely with customers and colleagues to understand their needs, and design and enhance user-friendly systems.
Misconception #2: You need to have a lot of formal education or be some kind of technical genius who understands complex computer-programming languages to work in IT. Truth: There’s a wide variety of IT jobs for diverse interests and skill sets.
Add to that the ingrained image of IT being for male nerds and neckbeards.
IT professors need to further educate prospective students as well as academic peers at their university about what the industry is really like today including marketable skills and career opportunities, Trauth said.
Because computing is for everybody.