A recent survey of 10 universities by the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) suggests the average number of women graduating from computer studies programs remains flat.
The informal poll found that approximately 20 per cent of new grads from IT-related programs are women, an average similar to last year’s findings. That raises concerns for people like Pat Gaudet, CIPS Women in IT spokesperson and former CIPS Toronto president.
“I think it’s just a continuation of the issue that girls … as a generality, are not viewing IT as an attractive career.”
Gaudet said there are two reasons for this. “There are a lot of women in IT now, but maybe they’re not visible enough. There’s a lack of role models.” The other reason is that there is still a “preconception that … the IT career basically involves someone sitting at a computer all the time and doing nothing else. This is reinforced by the hackneyed view of IT being a ‘male nerd’ sort of field. Some of it is like that, but it’s definitely not typical of an IT career.”
When asked whether the stagnant numbers were surprising at all, Gaudet said, “No. That is why we are running Women in IT programs: to improve the proportion of women in the IT field.”
Each year during International Women’s Week, Information Technology (IT) Week and the weeks prior, CIPS holds its Women in IT events across the country as a way to encourage girls to pursue careers in technology. According to the CIPS Web site, approximately 3,000 thirteen- to fifteen-year-old girls participate.
“We may be invited to go into schools and address girls in classrooms — it’s a way of putting mentors closer to girls and communicating with them” about what a career in IT is really like, said Gaudet.