The Disappearing Women of IT

It’s no news flash that women are an endangered species in IT. While we make up 57 percent of the workforce at large, we only represent 25 percent of professional computing occupations — and that number is dropping.

Where Did the Women Go?

Disappearing WomenThe National Center for Women & Information Technology’s statistical publication By the Numbers sounds alarm bells. In 1985, it says, women made up 37 percent of graduates with degrees in Computer Science. That’s not exactly parity, but it’s significant. By 2010, however, only 18 percent of Computer and Information Science graduates were women. At major research universities, the number was 14 percent. In particular, the last decade has seen an amazing shortfall: Between 2000 and 2011, the number of women interested in majoring in Computer Science dropped by a whopping 79 percent.

Employment analysts, gender diversity experts and psychologists have theories about the fall, but so far no one has hard reasons or a solution. The rationales for the drop range from the weak — girls don’t want to be perceived as nerds — to the socially complex and disturbing — the rise of a swarming misogynistic groupthink. Personally, I think the fear of nerdom is largely absurd, especially in regards to the Millennial generation. As for the misogyny, it plays out way too publicly to dismiss as inconsequential. In between these two poles, there are likely more than a few quantifiable reasons why once out of high school, girls cease to move toward careers in computing technologies.

The Special Report

Employers say they’d like to see more women in the industry. But if women aren’t graduating with Computer Science and Information degrees and then applying for the jobs in the field, how can companies find them? By 2020 it’s estimated that there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. One hopes that more than 25 percent of them would be filled by qualified women.

How to Change the Dynamic

Catherine S. Ashcraft, Senior Research Scientist at NCWIT takes a long range approach to changing the dynamic. The Center is committed to creating support networks and campaigns to encourage and keep girls and young women engaged in IT. To that end, the organization places a lot of emphasis on creating more inclusive environments both in college classrooms and companies.

“A commitment to systemic rather than piecemeal change is important,” Ashcraft says. “Starting small is great but there needs to be a commitment to eventually change company-wide systems and policies. We like to say that it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

NCWIT encourages educators at all levels to make computing curricula more relevant and engaging, and works with companies to help technical managers develop more inclusive teams while fostering leadership support and accountability metrics to ensure that they succeed.

Observers agree that for meaningful change to occur, businesses need to make a committed, sustained effort and approach the problem on multiple fronts.Companies are doing a range of things,” says Ashcraft, “from analyzing job descriptions for bias, evaluating performance evaluation instruments, talent management systems, and employee development plans for subtle biases and inequities. They’re training supervisors, implementing more flexible work practices, implementing more effective mentorships and especially sponsorship programs.” In addition, she notes, “identifying potential female talent and consciously developing that talent into future leadership is also important.”

Move in the Right Direction

Tackling the complexities of daily interactions is fundamental to making the IT work environment more gender neutral. “Companies are so different that they have to figure out what works for them,” Ashcraft concludes. “They can learn from each other too, and that’s one of the goals of our Workforce Alliance — to share innovative ideas and lessons learned with other companies committed to the same objective.”

34 Responses to “The Disappearing Women of IT”

  1. COMPSI degrees are pretty worthless unless you are going to be a programmer. I don’t believe degree is the issue, I believe that once again management is the issue. How much of IT Management is made of technical people, not appreciative of the diversity of degree’s in their organizations. As a director, who is an engineer by trade, with degrees in management and psychology, I have found it difficult to get IT Management to understand that a more well-rounded IT staff can better serve the organization. Men and women with skills in other areas can greatly enhance the customer service and problem solving issues that arise daily. The technical issues are mere mechanics.

    • I feel I’m very good at problem-solving. But none of that matters, because I’m not fluent in a dozen different programming languages, and I’m not a graphic artist (I can’t even draw).

      When I was still looking for tech work, I was often asked what I would “like” to do. My response was that I would like to earn enough money to support my household, which was labeled bad and evil. =) But after giving this more thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I never got beyond that answer simply because I was never given any opportunity to find out what I would have enjoyed doing. I think I would have enjoyed technical writing, as I do enjoy copywriting, but I’m not qualified for any technical writing jobs, not even temp jobs that pay $7.25/hour.

      Since graduating, I’ve had to bounce from survival job to survival job. (I didn’t quit any of these jobs; they were all temp positions that ran their course.) When you are struggling to pay your basic bills, what you “like” or “want” to do doesn’t matter. You have to take whatever kind of jobs you can get, regardless of how low they pay or how demeaning they are. You don’t have the luxury of having dreams or aspirations.

      I really thought attending college would elevate me out of this type of lifestyle. Instead, it plunged me into it. I am doing far, far worse now than I was before I decided to attend university.

      • Part of your “side” work in college (or better yet, before) needed to be learning about the field and the specialties within it and narrowing down your search area. You can’t just get the degree and hope things take care of themselves. Even your electives in college could have been focused on showing that you have an interest/training in the area you want to work in.

        At this point, you need to be doing remedial research. Read technical magazines, maybe pursue some certifications if you can. Work on an open source project on the side. Get fired up about something about the field, learn something about the issues and the jargon and pursue a position in that. Before you go on an interview learn something about the company and be able to ask intelligent questions about the work. My guess reading your post is that you’re coming off as passive and apathetic. That’s not very attractive to an employer.

    • As a middle aged female Tier 2 Desktop Support Engineer I could not agree more. I have been in the Telecommunications / IT field for nearly 15 years. I have consistently found and have even been told by management there is “no room for females” in this line of work. Some of the attitude I believe may be passed on by the older managers who served in the telecommunications/ communications fields during the cold war. Many of these persons worked in a strictly gender specific environment and the attitudes may not have changed with the times.
      I have fought to get where I am in my career and hit the proverbial “glass ceiling” a long time ago. I am as accomplished as and can communicate technical information to the end user better than my male counterparts. I am often the one to deal with the difficult customers because I have the better people skills. Because I have a different perspective I often identify and resolve complex technical issues when my counterpart cannot.
      A wise IT manager develops a well-rounded team yet fails to take into account lack of the female perspective.
      The female perspective is the missing link in a successful IT department.

      • It is such a diversified world. If you do not take into consideration a strong mix of females and males as part of the IT team, you are just an inept manager. As well, you must take into consideration your customer. They are just as diversified and do not want to be inundated with all technical male egos.

  2. Fred Bosick

    Can it be related to the decrease in STEM degree rates for *all* college students over the past 25 years. Since more women than men graduate, one might assume each one is more attuned to the benefits and tradeoffs of college and particular majors.

    In ’85, few had access to a PC. And Open Source software didn’t exist. Today, the devices are commodity items and everyone can boot up and run apps on a machine for free! If you can get near a public WiFi hotspot, you can connect to the Internet for the same cost.

    Access isn’t a problem. What could it be….?

    Mysogany is not very likely now given the litigious reality of the US, especially for older white guys. Even the executive washroom is friendlier to women, so it can’t be attributed to managerial discouragement.

    A recent DICE article examines the relative paucity of female H-1B workers to the numbers found in their home country. Despite the claims of industry that teeming geniuses are rescuing the long suffering tech companies from “dumb ‘murricans” filling out the online applications, most visa holders fill the entry to midlevel positions. Exactly where college graduates must start!

    Think about it.

    • As an executive in IT you need to ask yourself is our shop about technology or solving our customers problems? Most IT Managers falsely fall into the “technology” response… They will fall into hiring more H1-B and so-called technically capable men… And most of their projects budgets will bloat, and faul. But, IT is not about technology it is about solving customers problems. Technology is a tool to solving problems, nothing more, and in today’s world it is cheap and easy to acquire, you need to have smart and talented people to define the problem, and deliver it. This is usually not an entry level job, but it is one that requires great robustness in skills. Not just technology.

  3. Has anyone confucted a survey of young women to ask them if they have ever considered a career in IT and why or why not? I know for myself, I had no idea I had an aptitude for it, soI went to school to become a court reporter. While I was going to school, I got a job at a software company as an administrative asssistant and started automating contract templates with macros (it was repetitive and boring work for me, so I started using macros.) from there, I created a quotations configurator in Excel, with the help of a Microsoft engineer who showed me how to set up algorithyms to run the calculations I needed. Then I started manipulating them and the VB code in the background. The VP of development was quite impressed and the global sales team was thrilled to have this automated quotations configurator. Everbody in the company knew my name only three months after starting there. It spurred my interest further and I took a class in VB at a community college–I just wanted to see wherher I really had the ability to do this. A lot of people dropped out of the class within the first six weeks. I couldn’t believe I was still “getting it!” I finishef the class.

    Maybe young women don’t know they are capable and steer away from engineering or IT? If they were encouraged to dig deeper into IT, they might be surprised at what they’re capable of! I have been a software developer for 15 years now and still loving it!

    • Plinko

      I like where you are going with that. I always thought I couldn’t be a programmer because algebra made me angry. Invisible numbers, what sort of poppycock. I couldn’t get over the rules in math to like it and always questioned the connections. When I did things ways that made sense to me. Finally I stopped asking questions and settled for B grades and literally memorized the formulas with no clue how they worked. This means something because I always got straight A’s. A B grade was a personal let down.

      My mother was in medicine and told me that was where women were needed but let’s be blunt, I’m not a people person. It’s not that I lack empathy, it’s just that I am a realist and don’t entertain fanciful things like religion and small talk so I know my weakness is social interaction. Once I did general office work for years I just found a knack for computers and bought one for my home then dated computer guys and together we learned all we could alone getting our hands dirty and testing things without guides. Then I attended school later in life and said – what the heck – I know how to do this at home.

      There was no one in my formative years pushing me to do anything but learn English well. Every girl I knew in high school wanted to have babies and their ultimate goals were to breed, Mine was to learn as much as I could. That still goes on today, I was mocked recently for buying a hard bound dictionary but had I birthed a child I would have been right on female course.
      P.S. No children and still not interested. I’m just not the motherly type but I am the info seeking type.

  4. Also, another point to make is that my brother encouraged me and would often show me how to do weird stuff from the early PCs — like get on bulletin boards before the wide use of the internet. I think dads and brothers play a very important role in all this, because if they take the time to teach their daughters or sisters how to use technology and manipulate it, the gals will assume this is normal and keep growing and learning. 🙂

    • Plinko

      Did you steal your brother’s Legos too and get offered dolls? lol Parents, buy your female children something other than dolls, please. We really can handle building tools for our minds. One of the coolest books I have is on ancient architecture (The Styles of Ornament), I can skim it and get lost for hours. Another one is Celtic Art (found it in a museum), they explain how all the knots can be drawn and I’m sure that’s mathematical.

  5. I would have been happy to use my Math/CIS degree for its intended purpose if I’d simply been able to obtain an entry-level job. But no entry-level jobs exist. Even the unpaid “internships” I saw (which I couldn’t afford to work anyway) required 2-3 years of experience, a portfolio and complete fluency in at least a dozen different programming languages.

    Please note this has absolutely nothing to do with my gender. The entry-level jobs aren’t there, period, for anyone. It’s not like guys are seeing different ads than I am.

    I had only one experience while job-hunting that could have been attributed to “misogyny.” I applied for a temp job at an SEO firm, a marketing position, not a tech position. The interviewer (who was the owner of this hack company) crumpled up my resume right in front of me. My husband said he’d likely never have dared do that to a man, and I agree. But I don’t think he crumpled my resume because I was a woman. He crumpled it because he saw that I wasn’t 23 years old…like all of the staff I saw when I walked in.

    I work out a lot–I’ve run two half marathons and am training for my first full–and I don’t smoke, drink, eat bad food or fry myself in the sun. Because of all of these things, I can pass for 30, but I cannot pass for 23. I feel that if there’s any discrimination going on, it’s due to age, not gender…but once again, there simply are no entry-level positions in tech, regardless of the age of the applicant.

    • I was going to say this too.
      I don’t tell people my age, my gender, and sometimes even exclude my work experience time, but it doesn’t seem to matter. If I’m not the perfect candidate, I’m no candidate at all.

      Them: “Hi, we’d like someone with skills in x, y, and z, 2-5 years experience.”
      Me: “Really? I have all of those skills.”
      Them: “Are you an expert?”
      Me: “Well, not in ALL of those.”
      Them: “Sorry, we want an expert in ALL of those.”

      Maybe I should start reminding companies that they posted their job ads as “ENTRY level” positions.

      • Because I just received my bachelor’s in 2011, and I go back only 10 years on my work history, employers have no idea I’m a Gen X’er; on paper, I appear to be an older Millennial. Additionally, the unemployment rate for Millennials is much higher than for older workers; if employers preferred Millennials, it would be the other way around.

        I didn’t apply to very many tech jobs, perhaps half a dozen or less, because I couldn’t find jobs where I met all of the qualifications. Even so-called “entry-level” positions demand 2-3 years of experience and a portfolio. The overwhelming majority of the jobs I applied for were, sadly, the same bottom-level secretarial positions I pursued before getting this degree.

        I’m only four classes away from getting my MBA, but I don’t see it improving my job outlook. My resume has been destroyed by all of the low-level, dead-end gigs I’ve had to take since graduating. There is no way to make jobs like walking dogs and Fiverr gigs look “good.” This problem has nothing to do with my gender; a man in my situation wouldn’t have any better luck.

        • A man in your situation most likely would have applied for more jobs. Studies have shown that, on average, men will apply for jobs if they have about half of the qualifications. Women tend to apply only if they have almost all of the qualifications.

          That’s not to say that there aren’t employers who are asking for an excess of qualifications. That’s a problem at the higher experience levels too.

          And I’m not trying to be discouraging, but why did you go for the MBA? Once again, you need to have a plan rather than getting another degree and just hoping for the best.

  6. Michele

    (1) How many of the men in the IT fields have been officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome?
    (2) How many college professors and students are men from cultures and countries where women are worse than second class citizens?
    (3) How many people in IT now speak English as a Second Language?

    I do think that women and young girls are possess more language fluency and may struggle in classes where English is barely spoken. It’s not the fear of being perceived as a nerd, but if you are a woman with any emotional or social needs for interacting with people and not just machines, it may be a very difficult environment to spend so much time with men who lack social skills and language fluency.

    There are a lot of IT shops where the staff sits in dark rooms with no lighting, and there sense of humor and there “gaming” world obsessions are very odd to most women.

    Plus, most of the younger IT men have no issues with lying and fabricating on their resumes about their computer and technical skills. Most women in comparison will only apply for jobs, which they feel truly qualified to do. The guys will lie and then teach themselves on the job.

    Also, the IT work is very factory assembly line type of work, where you just don’t see the value or meaning to what you are doing. IT managers can really be harsh at times to their staff, sometimes abusive, but the IT staff seems to take it and not even expect better treatment. Many women and younger girls were brought up not to take anything less than praise from their superiors.

    The sacrifices just may not be worth the returns for the majority of women to have a career in IT.

    • Interesting. I’m not a “typical” female. I was never formally diagnosed with Asperger’s, but that’s because I’m Gen X. I was sent to shrink after shrink after shrink when I was a child because I didn’t behave the way a “normal” female should (now THAT was gender discrimination). I really didn’t care about spending more time with machines than with people; in fact, that’s one of the reasons I decided to major in Math/CIS. I was hoping to get a job where I didn’t have to flit around the room chatting strangers up.

      This is probably why I like running. Although races are run with many other people, and there is a strong sense of community, it is a solitary sport. Running is all about me against me, not me against others…especially since I am nowhere near fast enough to win races, heh. I’m a long slow distance runner.

      I think you hit on something here:

      ——- most of the younger IT men have no issues with lying and fabricating on their resumes about their computer and technical skills. Most women in comparison will only apply for jobs, which they feel truly qualified to do. The guys will lie and then teach themselves on the job.——–

      I see A LOT of poor programming around me every day, from websites that take 15 minutes to load to self-checkout registers that are perpetually out of order. I’m fond of saying that I strongly suspect the only difference between me and the people who are being paid for that shoddy programming is that they’re better liars than I am.

      I mentioned in another post that I applied for a grand total of about six tech jobs during the year and a half or so that I searched for one. This is because I couldn’t find any ads for jobs that I came even close to qualifying for. Even the ads for unpaid “interns” demanded at least two years of experience and a portfolio.

      Perhaps men are more willing to lie on their resumes than women; I have no idea. I do know that cheating was RAMPANT at my university. The prof would hand out a computer lab. Half the class would turn it in within 24 hours and get 100% on it. But when an exam was given on the SAME MATERIAL, the average grade would be, like, a 37%. You tell me what was going on.

      That said, if you and I are aware of the cheating and lying, rest assured the companies are aware of it as well. It is likely that this is the reason why coding tests are given during the interview process…and why they’re given on whiteboards. I wondered about the whiteboard thing myself, then it occurred to me that if an applicant was sat down at a computer, alone, they could easily cheat their way through a coding test.

      I never lied on my resume because I didn’t want to be put in a situation where I was brought in for an interview, only to fail a coding test miserably. Or manage to get through the interview process, only to be fired within three days of starting the job because it was immediately clear that I didn’t know what I was doing.

      I just wish I could have gotten some sort of job, even secretarial work, even janitorial work. I thought that being an honest, hard worker would get me somewhere. I was wrong.

      • Hi TR.
        We’ve chatted before, so I’m familiar with your history. I really hoped your job situation would have improved by now. When I read your posts, it really gets me thinking about what’s going on. I realize that you’re situation does not allow you to just move for a job, but what where you live just does not seem to be a good area for entry level IT work.

        Your point that even entry level work seems to demand experience seems to be on point. I’ve talked to interns and recently interviewed for some (what my company calls) “new college” hire positions. All have had some prior experience. None are experts at anything by any measure. One caveat is that the company I work for is highly technical and competes with the top companies in Silicon Valley for top workers, so the bar is higher than average.

        Another trend I see is that my company (and I suspect others) are hiring either entry level or senior level. Mid-level experience level workers are not being recruited. The CEO even stated this is the hiring strategy. This may work for you, or against you as mid-levelers increasingly compete for entry level jobs.

        One of your thoughts on ‘lying’ made me think of something else. Like you, I don’t feel comfortable overstating my capabilities. But, you do have to market yourself. If I remember you’ve got marketing experience, so you know that there is a fudge factor with presenting the product. The Big Mac you get is not the same as the what is pictured on the menu, but it is what it is.

        We are our own worst critics. Be sure to give yourself fair representation on your resume for the skills you do have. Saying you are ‘familiar with Java’ is not saying you can sit down and bang out a 1000 line Java program instantly.

        When I interview a ‘new college’ hire, even those with experience can’t (usually) do that. Best I can expect is they can state language basics and write a few routines that swap numbers in an efficient way, or something like that. Again, fair representation of what you know.

        Good luck and keep in the game. I’m rooting for you!

        • I live near Philadelphia, a major city that is allegedly a “hot spot for tech.” I do not feel that my location has anything to do with me being unable to obtain entry-level work.

          Sometimes, just for kicks, I’ll look at the Craigslist for a city where the economy is allegedly “better” than it is here. For example, recently, I looked at the Pittsburgh CL. And just like *every other time* I’ve performed this experiment, I have seen no difference at all between the types of jobs being advertised there and those being advertised here. All of them, even those that are allegedly “entry-level,” require several years of experience, total fluency in at least a half dozen different programming languages, and a portfolio. Nobody wants someone who is “familiar with Java.” Employers want someone who is completely fluent in it, along with C, C++, C#, Javascript, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP,, SQL, AJAX, and an alphabet soup of other languages. Oh, and the applicant must be a seasoned graphic artist who is an expert with Adobe Creative Suite. I cannot even draw stick figures.

          People tell me to “just go through tutorials.” I could sit here going through tutorials from now until Kingdom Come. I’m not going to achieve total fluency in all of those languages, AND go from being unable to draw stick figures to being a Van Gogh.

          I’m not “in the game” anymore at all. I cannot be. Not only do I not have the required skills, but thanks to me being unable to obtain gainful work, my credit is completely ruined. There is no point in me applying for any jobs at all, not even jobs outside of tech. I’m unemployable, so I’m doing what convicted felons and other unemployable people often do: I’m pursuing self-employment, in my case in copywriting and internet marketing.

    • Michele,

      If Asperger’s, dark rooms, crude humor, and game culture is your impression of IT, then I am sorry on the behalf of the industry I work in. Except for a few managers at one messed up company, none of the companies I’ve worked for tolerated inappropriate language or jokes. That said, I’ve only worked for larger computer companies. Perhaps the smaller ones, or IT departments in non-computer companies allow that type of behavior.

      That said, there likely are differences in the way female IT workers are treated. A female friend of mine has flatly stated that some male co-work answer questions differently when she asks them as opposed to when the (male) manager asks. I don’t have a answer or justification for this behavior.

      I have read articles about how people in the position to hire look for people that are similar to themselves. This could apply to gender bias as well. I can just say from personal experience I don’t care what a job candidate is, except qualified to do the job and socially capable of working well with others.

      I’m sad that your experience with “IT” has left you with the impression that it is a ‘factory assembly’ type work. IT is a very broad industry from customer support to desktop technicians to Database administrators to Operating system programmers to phone application programming.

      There are certainly aspects of every one of those jobs that are repetitive, but there are also many interesting aspects to them as well. Generally the repetitive tasks are left to entry level workers.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it really depends on the company with regard to abusive and harsh environments. In those companies, I don’t think your gender matters. My first job was with one of those messed up “sweat shop” companies. I worked 100 hr weeks (literally; not exaggeration). I got used and abused, but I walked away with a ton of experience that got me my next job. If you have to work for one of these types of companies, get what you need from these companies and get out as soon as you can. I really believe that these companies are the minority of IT companies.

      Good luck in your career.

  7. After 6 months of trying to sell our house, the realtor told us the problem was out master bedroom had a red color scheme. She worked long and hard on trying to get us to completely redecorate the house to “her specs.” My question to her was how in the world the 200+ buyers that closed during the 6 months knew our master bedroom was red, when only 3 of them ever walked into the house?

    Pre-conceived notions are virtually impossible to overcome. I see several in the story and comments.

    1) It is a management problem. How? Are you trying to tell me that managers are trolling the halls of the high schools trying to tell females to ignore IT subjects?

    2) It is a problem with the training. How? Are you trying to tell me that the colleges and universities, doing everything they can to boost enrollment, are somehow telling females to ignore IT degrees?

    3) It’s a problem with the men in the industry. How? Are we going out of our way to tell young women to ignore IT degrees?

    I have five daughters. None of them cared a fig for the computer industry. All are smart and capable — and any of them would be a great asset to any department of any kind they worked in. They just couldn’t care less about working with computers.

    What if the reason women are not jumping into the IT field is that they feel free enough to actually CHOOSE for THEMSELVES what THEY want to do?????? Unburdened by a feeling they have to “prove themselves” to other women, to society at large, or to “them” (the unknown group), they simply decided to go do something that interested them.

    In an open economy, people can make those choices, all on their own. They neither need, nor appreciate, some politically motivated organization telling them what to do.

    Perhaps the new generation feels that freedom, and couldn’t give a rat’s furry butt what other folks expect of them, so they are doing what THEY want to do. And it just so happens that most women want a career that is more personally fulfilling and interesting than a life of sitting in front of a computer.

    After all, most of the things I see people talking about here have nothing to do with what a high school graduate would have a real understanding of. Perhaps it is time to step back and see what is really happening.

    • The younger generation always has wanted to choose what they’ve wanted to do. It’s the classic line for parents to say: “don’t you want to be a Dr. or lawyer?”

      Few could really choose until the 1960s because families lacked the financial stability to send their kids to college. Since the then, the majority of students choose non-marketable fields (History, Sociology, Philosophy, Art) and gotten away with it. After they graduate, they could find a job unrelated to their studies. Conditions have changed and they can’t get away with it any more. At least not in this economic cycle. If they don’t have a marketable skill, they aren’t in the competition.

      As many are finding out, just getting the degree that is marketable isn’t enough either. It’s the norm that college IT students are working entry jobs and getting experience (internships) over the summers or even during the school year. Those with just the degree are finding it harder to compete with their peers that have experience.

      RE: “And it just so happens that most women want a career that is more personally fulfilling and interesting than a life of sitting in front of a computer.”

      You may believe this, but it seems like a harsh judgement of others, what they do or find fulfilling. Your influence on your daughters may be greater than you think. Perhaps this could be why they don’t have much interest in computer related topics?

      • —-Few could really choose until the 1960s because families lacked the financial stability to send their kids to college. Since the then, the majority of students choose non-marketable fields (History, Sociology, Philosophy, Art) and gotten away with it.——-

        Actually, that’s not true. The most popular college major is Business Administration. In fact, out of the top 10 majors, five are business-related, and none (with the possible exception of English) would be considered un-marketable:

        Very few students choose to major in esoteric subjects. Out of those who do, most are the offspring of the wealthy. They’re not going to college so they can get jobs; they’re already guaranteed executive positions at Daddy’s company. They’re going to college so that they can have letters after their names on gala invitations, and so they can discuss the works of Byron and Van Gogh during the intermission at the ballet or opera. Additionally–even in this day of equality–wealthy young women attend college so they can meet suitable wealthy husbands.

        There are other charts in that article, including one that lists the top 10 majors with the highest unemployment rates. Mine is No. 6 on the list (how ironic).

        • I concede that fact that business and business related majors are most popular. My statement was incorrect and believe that I wrote it incorrectly.

          I meant to say that in the past a high percentage that choose unmarketable majors had gotten away with and found jobs. The main point I was making is that the job market is less forgiving today.

          The Business Insider article you posted is interesting, but going to the data source the article is based on gives a more complete picture ( In it (page 5) it states:
          “Unemployment seems mostly concentrated in
          information systems (14.7 %) compared with
          computer science (8.7%) and mathematics (5.9%).”

          These are numbers for ‘recent college graduates’. They are shown in greater detail in the tables starting on page 9. Note that a few percentage points separate most majors in unemployment. Mathematics unemployment is among the best percentage wise. CS seems to be just slightly on the bad side of the middle. Information systems is definitely tanking the overall numbers for Computer related fields.

          I’m not sure exactly how the BI got the numbers it published in the article. They don’t seem to match the Georgetown study very closely. At best, they seem to round up and fractions of a percent can significantly change the position of where a major ranks.

          • It’s also important to note that, in the past, only the wealthy attended college, and just as is the situation today, they didn’t go to college so they could become “marketable.” They were already guaranteed an executive position within Daddy’s company. They went to college to become “cultured,” “well-read” and “well-rounded,” and to have letters after their names on gala invitations.

            Employers today complain that universities don’t “train” students properly for jobs, but historically, universities have never acted as job-training centers (with the possible exception of law and medical schools). The notion that one goes to college to be trained for a particular job is a relatively new one, having emerged only in the last 20 years or so, and becoming commonplace only within about the last decade.

            The job market is beyond “unforgiving.” It’s impossible, and that’s because the economy has collapsed. The Pigeonhole Principle is in effect; there are simply too few jobs and too many applicants.

            I don’t believe in “marketable” versus “non-marketable” majors anymore. I chose the major I did because I stupidly listened to everyone who told me that a STEM degree, combined with a hardcore work ethic (which I have), would open doors to solid, gainful employment. Instead, this degree did nothing but slam doors shut for me. I didn’t compete with 3rd World workers for $5.00/hour jobs on oDesk before I got this degree. I didn’t have to. I was able to do better than that.

            I should have either not attended college at all, or just gotten a nice, online business degree from the same school I’m getting my MBA from. I could have worked any job, any shift, any hour, without worrying about BS class schedules getting in the way. I would have graduated with no debt or debt that was so minimal, I could have afforded to pay it off even on the 3rd World money I make now.

  8. doodledee

    I met some pretty darn good women programmers during my career, but many of them if you ask them, despise the cold hard nature of this type of work.

  9. Life is what you make it, in any career. Any references regarding repetitiveness, getting up every morning, taking a shower, getting dressed, and going to work is ‘repetitive’. Each time a problem is solved is a win and a success. It is all where your perspective is. IT is a rewarding career with many challenges and rewards. Truth is, IT has more complex problems with numerous variables to consider to solve than most other careers, is why the fainthearted should look elsewhere.

  10. I am a woman who majored in a completely different area, and ended up in IT by the back door. First as a technical writer, then as a business analyst. I am not particularly interested in coding. I am interested in finding out what businesses really need, then putting it into terms that make sense to developers. There is a lot more to IT than writing code! If I had majored in Computer Science instead, I would have never learned the people skills that I use every day.

  11. The field has become to difficult for me. For the last 4 years, I have tried to land a permanent job. To only to be used for my knowledge to teach their male permanent employees and let go. The good old boys and the boy clubs have now been established and women are outsiders. This is the true facts and denying them and trying to encourage our girls that they can do anything will only put them in a situation to be used and hurt. Coming in as a second generation computer person this is a sad truth. Thank you for the glass ceiling and primeval manhood.

  12. “As for the misogyny, it plays out way too publicly to dismiss as inconsequential.”

    I absolutely agree! Furthermore, I think perhaps the most pervasive and perverse form of misogyny is when one woman tells another woman that her personal life choice is bad because it is not in line with the first woman’s politically motivated opinion of what the second woman *should* choose.

    I have five daughters. I taught all of them about computers. None of them wanted to go into the industry — at all. They had no interest in the IT industry. Most of the women I talk to are in the same boat.

    Most of the companies I talk to say they will hire a significantly underqualified woman if/when she applies, simply to keep up appearances of trying to be diversity minded. The result, however, is that she likely fails because she was never truly qualified for the position. At that point, there are two possibilities: 1) she works harder, or 2) she quits or gets fired.

    Most, I have been told, instead of working harder (like a dude would have to do), leave. The few I have spoken to left because they really did not like the work enough to put in the effort to excel at it. Most of the time, it really isn’t a fun job. They’d rather do something else — and they deserve to be able to do so without having some misogynistic woman tell them their life choice is wrong, and serving them a huge helping of guilt.

    And understand that in today’s “diversity uber alles” environment, a woman is given the two choices. The dude is simply fired.