By Gail Coury
When I was a high school student, I excelled in both math and science. My guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I responded with a very stereotypical answer – to be a high school math teacher – a common occupation for women. He looked at me and very seriously said, “Gail, math teachers are a dime a dozen. You should study computers.”
The interesting thing, though, is that I never thought about computers until he mentioned it. I took a computer class my senior year and was hooked. I majored in computer science and, as they say, the rest is history. I don’t think my counselor had any idea the impact he made in my life with those two sentences. We should all think of the impact we could have.
The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. Is waiting another 170 years acceptable?
What impact will this have on our workforce in the near future? There are more women graduating from college today than men, yet the numbers of women enrolled in the STEM fields is less than it was in the 1980s. According to the Harvard Business Review, the rampant “brogrammer” culture is alienating women right out of the field:
In 1985, 37% of computer science degrees were awarded to women
In 2012 only 18% of computer science degrees were awarded to women
In 1991 women held 37% of all computing jobs
In 2014 women held only 26% of all computing jobs
And 41% of women leave tech companies after 10 years, as opposed to 17% of men
Worse than progress slowing down, it’s actually going backwards – in North America, that is.
With technology disrupting almost every industry, how will we be able to sustain a workforce to meet these increasing demands?
As leaders, all of us need to examine how we can accelerate change. We must encourage both young boys and young girls to study math and science, and when we see excellence in these areas, we must suggest pursuing engineering and technology fields.
In trying to understand why women are underrepresented in the technology workforce, ISACA’s 2017 Women in Technology Survey found these factors play a role:
And the top 5 barriers that women face in tech are:
Throughout my working life, I have generally been the only woman on my team. While I have not personally experienced intentional bias, I know other women who have. ISACA’s study also confirms this – only 8% of respondents say they never experience gender bias, while 27% say they often or always do.
What can we do to change this? Be conscience of gender bias – it can be very subtle. I recently had the opportunity to listen to a male leader who pushes his hiring managers to have a diverse candidate pool and who ensures that women employees participate on his interview panels. These practices can make a difference.
There are companies today that are committed to hiring women in technology positions and companies that are taking proactive steps to equalizing the pay gap. Why would companies take such bold actions? Because studies have shown that diversity improves overall company performance.
ISACA has recognized that gender diversity is a challenge and has established the Connecting Women Leaders in Technology program to engage, empower and elevate its women members.
These women will be able to connect with and be inspired by women working in the fields of IT audit, risk and information security. Having role models of successful women in technology leadership positions will address the top barriers experienced by women in tech, as identified by ISACA’s 2017 Women in Technology Survey, such as a lack of mentors, a lack of female role models in the field, workplace gender bias, unequal growth opportunities and unequal pay.
As a woman leader in the technology workforce, I feel a sense of responsibility to affect change. As such, I am actively involved with ISACA’s Connecting Women Leaders in Technology program. We all must work to close the gender gap or experience the impact of a shortage of skilled technology workers.
What can you do to help?
Commit to interview a diverse set of candidates for an open position
Commit to sponsor women in your organization who have demonstrated capability
Consider mentoring an up-and-coming woman leader
Have an inclusive culture in your organization – challenge yourself to not see gender
Work with young people – especially girls – to help them see that a career in tech is really fun!
We all can make a difference – like my guidance counselor did for me. #BeBoldForChange.
About Gail Coury
Gail Coury, CISA, CISM, CISSP, member of ISACA’s Women’s Leadership Council and vice president of risk management for Managed Cloud Services at Oracle, has 20+ years’ experience in information security.