On the quest to find out why only about 20% of all IT specialists are women, the researchers asked female IT professionals from Stockholm and Jönköping about their experience.
The preliminary results of our study revealed some patterns that I would like to share with you. I conduct this study together with my colleague Professor Leona Achtenhagen at Media, Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS).
To find out why only 20% of the IT workforce are women, we asked our female respondents, Swedish IT professionals, to share their experience. For this study, we define IT according to the definition of Statistics Sweden (SCB), which includes IT support and operations, and the IT architects. We realise that the number of people employed in the IT-industry is much broader. For example, there are many in the sales and marketing departments of IT firms, as well as in communications. They are not part of this study since SCB groups them in a separate sub-category of communications and marketing. So, our sample includes Jönköping-based and Stockholm-based IT professionals working full-time as a quality assurance specialist, back-end, front-end developers and project leads in different stages of their career. The interviewees work for a variety of IT firms, ranging from big banks to emerging start-ups.
First, the work environment in IT-sector seems to be very encouraging for women as much as it is for men. Women working in IT-operations and IT-technicians interviewed by us said that they don’t face discrimination from male colleagues working on similar positions as them. Flat hierarchies contribute to that. So, in other words, discrimination does not appear to be the explanation of why there are so few women in IT professions.
Furthermore, our interviewees shared with us that a university degree in computer science is not a must-have to get a job in the IT industry. One can complete 6-months courses or even do a course online to grasp the basics of coding, and then land a job. For instance, one of our interviewees, a software engineer at an IT firm in Jonkoping, completed a 6-months coding course and then did an internship before getting her current job. Now, being part of the company, she does her best to progress, by continually taking additional courses and demonstrating her initiative to the management. She says she is on the same level as the others in terms of her professional expertise. And she describes herself as an ambitious person who eventually sees herself as an IT-architect. A key point here is that an internship at an established company becomes substantial merit when applying for a full-time job in IT. At the same time, our sample in Stockholm has shown the pattern that in bigger cities, it is beneficial for a female’s career in the IT sector to get a university degree. It is especially true for those women who occupy top positions, such as heads of IT departments in Stockholm-based banks, consultancy companies and other commercial firms. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of our study, yet one may suggest that competition intensifies in bigger cities. Yet, overall, we conclude that neither does education seem to be the explanation of the small number of women in IT jobs.
As one can see, the question of why there are so few women in the IT remains open, and so the search for answers becomes even more exciting. Just like the question, why there are so few female IT specialists, the main fact behind my work remains, that the IT sector crucially needs talent.
In the upcoming blog posts, I will continue discussing the findings of our research and the challenges that women face in the IT industry. If you work in IT and are willing to share your experience, please get in touch with me.
Dr Dinara Tokbaeva is a postdoctoral researcher at the Media, Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping International Business School. Before moving to Sweden, she has obtained her PhD from the University of Westminster in London, where she researched media management. At MMTC, Dinara is researching media companies in transitioning environments and female managers of media firms.
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Blogs in this series:
Technically, we let men shape our future! https://vertikals.se/mmtc/2019/12/16/technically-we-let-men-shape-our-future/