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3 Signs That Women Are Gaining Power in the ICT Industry

By Jana Melpolder on March 8, 2014

The computer teacher Ms. Ibed prepares for class in Palau, Micronesia. Photo credit: Andris Bjornson - Inveneo

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s a time to acknowledge how women’s positions have improved and where work still needs to happen. And the good news is it’s no longer a man’s world within the ICT community!

As access to education increases and rigid social norms regarding women fall away, women are taking a stronger stance within the ICT world. They are embracing roles as CEOs, leaders, and students like never before. Where are these changes happening?

1. Academics. The founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark, recently reported that a Computer Science course at UC Berkeley is now mostly female. Although this may seem like a small improvement, female Computer Science majors are also growing at both Stanford and Harvard by about 8% and 34% respectively. This could be the beginning of a new trend among young women.

2. The Workplace. ICT companies are becoming balanced between female and male positions, and often this parity is reflected in upper management, too. Kara Swisher, Founder and Co-executive Editor at Recode.net, recently said, “when the company has a female CEO…[it’s] almost a 50-50 split of female and male engineers.” Currently the ICT company Inveneo has a staff of 50% men and 50% women. Since its beginning, the company has almost always been co-managed or run by talented women including Kristin Peterson, Sybille Fleischmann, Jill Costello, Jossie Orense, and Kassia Echavarri-Queen.

3. Greater access to ICTs. Women in the developing world often don’t have access to ICTs, which limits their ability to enter the global economic market. This year the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) is addressing and playing close attention to these issues. The CSW is connected to the United Nations, and other significant and influential governmental players. While highlighting the need for greater ICT access, these powerful voices will be able to bring more women into the ICT community and emerging markets around the world. Intel’s Women and the Web reports that, hopefully, “progress can be accelerated to add 600 million new female Internet users within three years, rather than 450 million, which would double the number women and girls online.”

With all the progress, the United States still lags considerably behind compared to other countries. Ann Mei Chang, Mercy Corps’ Chief Innovation Officer, describes that Myanmar, Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia are actually the countries leading the way to educating women in computer science. With all our work to bring women into ICT in the United States, there’s still much more work left to do.

Let’s bring more women into ICT so that the new norm is balanced talent and collaboration between men and women. Let’s do that for ourselves, and let’s do that for the future of the ICT industry.

Filed Under: Education, Thought Leadership
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Written by
Jana Melpolder worked for over two years as an editor for ICTworks. She is passionate about bringing human rights issues to the forefront through ICT in the developing world, and she has reported on development programs from several countries including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and India. Follow her on Twitter: @JanaMelpolder
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One Comment to “3 Signs That Women Are Gaining Power in the ICT Industry”

  1. Archana says:

    I will have to respectfully disagree with the author about the three signs. Based on the data provided, one cannot conclude that women are gaining power in the ICT industry.

    For example:
    1. Academics – The first source is a blog which quotes a newspaper. The data point is that ONE course in ONE university has more female students than males. When the fact is that “in 1984, more than 37% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the US were awarded to women. By 1995, the figure had dropped to about 28.5 %. The latest U.S. Department of Education figures from 2011 put the number at 17.6%” (from the same blog). Also, the percent decline in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in Computer Science between 2000 and 2011 is 79. (Source: http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/legacy/pdf/BytheNumbers09.pdf). Is there data that shows that this trend has reversed since 2011?

    2. Workplace – Where is the data to show that ICT companies are becoming balanced between male and female positions (especially in upper management)? The quote from Swisher is ““When I look at tech companies across the board, only about 12.3 percent of the engineers are women,” said Swisher. “But when the company has a female CEO, that number jumps to almost a 50-50 split of female and male engineers.” Has the number of women CEOs in tech companies increased? If yes, that would be relevant to this discussion.

    3. The quote about Iran should be verified. In 2012, several universitites in Iran decided to ban women from engineering and computer science and several other disciplines. (Source: http://www.vitalvoices.org/node/2898) Have those bans been reversed?