Gender gap in tech fields not closing

By Melissa Lomenzo

The disparity between the number of females and males achieving
degrees in technology fields may be hindering new product
designs.

Because fewer females are going into information technology
programs, there is less product innovation designed toward women.
Women, however, make 83 percent of buying decisions, according to
the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

In fall 2007, 67 women and 407 men were enrolled in the computer
information systems option at Cal Poly, according to Institutional
Research, Assessment and Planning census files. In fall 2003, 239
women and 687 men were enrolled in the CIS option.

“Lack of diversity in any field potentially has a negative
impact because you’re not getting different perspectives, different
ideas [or] people who see things in slightly different ways,” said
Cheryl Wyrick, a management and human resources professor.

Some technology products are harder to navigate because there
are few women on design teams, as females help create more
user-friendly interfaces, according to an MSNBC article.

In 2006, females held 26 percent of professional IT-related
occupations in the U.S., according to the NCWIT. Although women can
obtain technology jobs, there is less interest in the field.

“People want to hire female graduates, [so it’s] more
competitive,” said Yuanjie He, a technology and operations
management professor.

Women are underrepresented in all computer technology programs
at Cal Poly. In fall 2007, 32 women and 486 men were enrolled as
computer science majors, according to IRAP census files.

“It’s the way society norms are now,” said Alex Ambriz, a
second-year sociology student. “Guys are further down the line,
[but females will catch up].”

Increasing numbers of females getting bachelor’s degrees in
technology will not be seen anytime soon.

Nationally, there was a 70 percent decline in the number of
incoming undergraduate females majoring in computer science between
2000 and 2005, according to the NCWIT.

About 35,000 bachelor’s degrees in computer science were given
to men and fewer than 10,000 were awarded to women in 2006. In
2007, 2,767 female and 12,282 male high school students took the
Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam in 2006, according to a
College Board report.

“I guess women are not as interested in the field as men,” said
Youssef Hijazi, a first-year biotechnology student.

Although computer and mathematical science jobs are expected to
grow about 25 percent through 2016, according to the Department of
Labor, fewer females may join technology programs because of
preconceived notions about job outlook.

“There’s a lot of these technology jobs that are outsourced to
other countries, and so there’s a perception that there’s not as
many jobs in technology,” said Wyrick. “Women are looking at other
alternatives.”

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