Facts on women in IT careers

April 27, 2012 at 8:44 am 11 comments

Just got this from NCWIT.  The bullet about 56% of technical women leaving their careers was most interesting and disappointing for me.  Most of the references are in the NCWIT Report, The Facts.

Did you know that there are 903,000 women in computing occupations in the United States? Recently we gathered together some demographics on technical women and thought we’d share them with you. Read on for other interesting factoids.
  • The median age of women in computing and mathematical occupations is 42. (U.S. Department of Labor, unpublished)
  • Of the approximately 903,000 women holding computing and mathematical occupations in the U.S, about a quarter million are between the ages of 25 and 34, and another quarter million are between the ages of 35 and 44. (U.S. Department of Labor, unpublished)
  • The average female senior software developer earns between $74,660 – $100,591 per year and has at least a bachelor’s degree. (Payscale.com
  • In 2008, technical women earned an average salary of $70,370 (Dice.com via The Facts)
  • Of the 20 occupations with the highest median earnings for women, 5 are computing occupations: computer software engineers, computer and information systems managers, computer programmers, computer scientists and systems analysts, and network systems and data communications analysts. (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Women in the computing workforce are predominantly white; about 2% are African-American, 4% are Asian, and 1% are Latina. (By The Numbers)
  • More than half (56%) of women in technology leave their employers at the mid-level point in their careers (10-20 years). Of the women who leave, 24% take a non-technical job in a different company; 22% become self-employed in a technical field; 20% take time out of the workforce; 17% take a government or non-profit technical job; 10% go to a startup company; and 7% take a non-technical job within the same company. (The Athena Factor via The Facts)
  • About 82% of technical women have a partner who works fulltime, compared with 37% of technical men. (Anita Borg Institute)

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Max Hailperin  |  April 27, 2012 at 8:54 am

    You express disappointment that 56% of technical women leave their careers. Before we get to the question of whether it is disappointing, we should ask whether it is true. I’m not really sure what it means to say that someone has left their career. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include “becom[ing] self-employed in a technical field,” “tak[ing] a government or non-profit technical job,” or “go[ing] to a startup company.” At a minimum those categories seem more like further developments in a career as opposed to departure from the career. And they add up to approximately half of the 56%.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  April 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

      From the perspective of having a diversity of women in upper-level, decision-making ranks of technical companies, yes, it’s disappointing. The odds are nearly three times greater for a man to reach the executive level in an IT company than it is for a woman.

      • 3. Max Hailperin  |  April 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

        It seems like you are changing your argument midstream. If you are interested in paths into management, then 56% is still an inflated number, because it includes women who “take a non-technical job at a different company” or “take a non-technical job within the same company.” In fact, all of the women who are moving into management lie within the 56% (but so do other women who are not).

        I’m not denying that the male/female comparison you are now linking to is disappointing — but that’s different from the number you originally quoted being disappointing.

        • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  April 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

          In both cases, I’m talking about moving into technical management.

          • 5. Max Hailperin  |  April 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

            But what were the people talking about who gathered the statistics you are quoting? (And if the gatherers didn’t word their questions clearly, what were the respondents talking about?) I would bet that “reach[ing] the executive level” counts as “a non-technical job” for a lot of people in a lot of cases.

            You and I agree that there are real, important problems with how gender plays out in technology development. I just think it doesn’t help shed any light on those problems to point to mixed up statistics that blend together all sorts of different things. The sub-categories within the 56% are incredibly disparate from each other, and even within each one there is a lot of heterogeneity. “A non-technical job at a different company” could mean a part-time job as an instructor and sales-assistant at the local yarn shop. Or it could mean becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation.

            • 6. Mark Guzdial  |  April 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm

              You raise fair points, Max. It’s possible that the study wasn’t worded properly, and it could be that their categories are masking things we want to see happen. These are just one-liner facts, tidbits — certainly, I’m not presenting the whole story. I’ve heard talks on several of these studies, and I trust the researchers, but I don’t know enough of the details to assure you about the methodology. You’re welcome to follow up on the links provided to see if they did get it right or not.

  • 7. Erik Engbrecht  |  April 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

    re: Leaving their “careers” versus leaving their “organizations”
    The report seems to focus on women leaving their current organization, which includes both switching to a non-technical organization with the same employer and leaving their employer for a technical role at another company. If you look at pages 16 and 17 of the report[1], it shows that about half of those women are leaving technical roles entirely (51%) and about half are pursuing technical roles elsewhere (49%).

    So really only about 28% are leaving the technical career path.

    [1] http://www.ncwit.org/pdf/NCWIT_TheFacts_rev2010.pdf

    • 8. Mark Guzdial  |  April 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Erik, I’m confused by your statement – not disagreeing, just not getting it. You said that 51% are leaving technical roles entirely. So how can only 28% be leaving technical career paths?

      • 9. Erik Engbrecht  |  April 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        56% of women leave their current organization
        49% of those who leave their current organization take on technical roles elsewhere (another company, independent contracting, startup, etc)
        51% of those who leave are no longer in technical roles (assuming a non-technical role in the same company, assuming a non-technical role in another company, leaving the workforce, etc)

        56% * 49% = 27.44% remaining in technical roles
        56% * 51% = 28.56% no longer in technical roles

        The 49% and 51% are subcategories of the original 56%, and are also further broken down.

        I only skimmed the paper, but that section seemed focused on the causes attrition (and ways to avoid them) from the perspective of a supervisor or department manager. From that perspective, the vast majority of the time it doesn’t really matter if a person left to go work for your competitor or left to raise a family. What matters is that a hole has just been punched in your organization, and filling such holes is both expensive and risky.

        • 10. Mark Guzdial  |  April 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

          Thanks for the explanation, Erik!

  • 11. Virtualization Blogger  |  September 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I think more women should consider becoming virtualization engineers. Here’s a post I wrote providing guidance on what skills are needed: http://www.vminstall.com/the-cheaters-guide-to-help-women-start-a-career-in-virtualization/


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