Women in the IT industry: myths and facts
What positions do women hold in IT? How much do they earn? Is there still discrimination?
Kate Pretkel, Global Head of Leadership Excellence, ESG, and DE&I Programs in EPAM, shares her thoughts about gender equity and how an inclusive company culture is the key to helping unlock equal opportunities for all.
— Diversity, equity, and inclusion are already well-known concepts. Each component is very different, but they are all necessary to create a thriving workplace.
Diversity refers to all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the characteristics that vary from one individual or group to another.
Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources.
Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and that their full participation is valued.
In simple words, DE&I refer to: how open we are and how much we support employees of any culture, age, skin color, and beliefs; how intentionally we build programs to attract these employees; and how we help them feel comfortable, reveal their potential, and avoid discrimination and infringement of their rights and opportunities.
Why do women come into IT?
— There have always been women in IT. In the US, 50–60 years ago, many IT specialists were women. They were the ones who programmed the first machines. At that time, this work was not considered to be very intellectual and was not highly paid. There is even a well-known film about how African American women in the United States worked for NASA on the launches of the first manned spacecraft. They were programming part of these flights. Clearly, the presence of women in IT is not something new.
When the industry began to develop very actively in the 1980s, marketing around the profession greatly influenced the perception of who was doing what. There was a bias toward highlighting the roles of men, and not only in IT. In some countries, only men were shown as playing a role in the history of large companies — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and others. There were very few women acknowledged. The images, materials, films, and articles related to IT specialties focused only on certain kinds of men: IT specialists in stretched sweaters and “geek” programmers. Thus, it seemed that this was a man's job; and that impression took hold. Statistics concerning the number of university graduates since the 1980s show a drop in the number of women entering educational institutions for IT specialties.
Now, the situation is changing. At EPAM, more than 40% of novice specialists are women. We don't see a big difference between men and women in terms of how they come into an IT career. This trend is found in the UK, the US, Belarus, Ukraine, and many countries that I follow. The percentage of women in the field continues to grow. Of course, not as fast as we would like. In some countries, bias remains strong and there is less social support. But the trend continues to be positive, and that is a welcome development.
What positions do women hold in IT?
— There are no specialties in which there are no women. There are no specialties in which women do not have the ability to become great leaders. I am sure that there are no particular areas in which women inherently do better work than men, and vice versa. Rather, there are socially expected roles that influence the specialties that men and women choose. And there remains an opinion that less technical specialties will be easier and more appropriate for women.
At the same time, studies have shown that girls in school studying exact sciences are often ahead of boys in grades, and that they achieve the same grades as boys in math. My daughter is currently at school in the US, and I specifically asked her if there are any subjects that are more suitable for boys or in which girls are more successful. She didn't understand what I meant at all. She is 12 years old, she is in the 7th grade, and mathematics is her favorite subject. In her environment, there is no idea that any subject is more suitable for girls or for boys.
But the reality is that many girls still grow up in an environment where they are not socialized to take risks. They are taught to mitigate risks, and they continue to do so when career building.
I would single out three main areas in IT in which you commonly find women:
Also, within IT, as in any field of business, there are non-IT specialties. Women overwhelmingly occupy roles in training, people programs, marketing and communications, and design (this area is closest to IT). It is not unusual for women who were drawn to some of these other departments to eventually begin to develop hard skills and transition to IT specialties. One of my good friends became an account manager. She had no technical education, but she had the desire to develop. With a strong desire, there are practically no restrictions on what someone can achieve.
How much do women earn in IT?
— The salary depends very much on the market and the country in which the specialist is working. Therefore, it is not possible to talk about a specific amount.
When we talk about diversity and inclusion programs, there is a metric that all large and responsible companies pay attention to. It's called the Gender Pay Gap — the difference between how much men and women are paid for the same job. Most public companies openly add this metric to their reports. IT is one of the areas where this gap is minimal.
But there is social pressure supporting the gap in some countries, so the ongoing work to reduce it requires more effort. In most IT companies that conduct programs efficiently and monitor their data, there will be no gap, or it will not be large.
If you look at this metric around the world, it will be different for different groups. But, on average, for every dollar that a man earns, a woman earns 0.82 of that dollar. This is not in IT, but in general. In the US, the percentage is even lower for women of color, who are paid less for doing the same work as their white counterparts. IT is ahead of other industries in the speed at which it is closing this gap. If I am asked if women should go to IT to earn money, I can say with a very high probability that they will receive comparable earnings to those of men in the same specialty.
Gender equity — myth or facts
— Is gender equity a myth or a reality? The answer depends on what we mean by equality and what is considered a myth. The fact that in most countries women earn less than men for the same work is not a myth, it is a fact. Therefore, we are not yet in a position to claim equality. When you consider the opportunities available to women and men, local and social norms and expectations play a very important role. It is very difficult to talk about the whole world as a single entity in this context.
What surprises me when I start looking at statistics and data from different countries on the number of women and men holding managerial positions is that the most developed countries do not show the highest results. In the US and the UK, the number of women in IT positions is much lower than in countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, or Poland. The largest number of women in EPAM as a percentage of total employees from the country is now in Poland.
Each country has its own specific context. Some countries are working more aggressively to address employment disparities than others. Switzerland, for example, has introduced a certain kind of reporting from all companies that shows their gender composition. Companies that do so are going to close the gaps.
How stereotypes prevent women from studying and working in IT
— Unfortunately, at one time or another, we've all heard someone makes a gender biased statement. Statements such as those mentioned below serve as important reminders of just how inaccurate and harmful they can be:
In almost all developed countries, it is prohibited as discriminatory to ask a woman at an interview whether she is married, whether she has children, and to assess her ability to do work by the roles she plays in addition to work. If you look at the Scandinavian countries and how their system for raising children is built, you will see that both dads and moms spend an equal amount of time on maternity leave. Each parent equally participates in the upbringing and care of the child. In these countries, no one considers whether a woman will go on maternity leave or not, or is going to get married or not. In IT companies with advanced personnel policies, particularly international companies, discrimination during interviews and promotion decisions may exist in some markets, but it is much less than in many other fields.
— Regardless of which path we see as possible in our own geographic location, I suggest considering the context more broadly. There are no specialties in which women cannot be successful. There are no specialties in which women are less capable than men. Social norms, and the communities in which we live, will help us, or not. Ultimately, the choice that we make is to go against the “system” to some extent, and do what we are interested in, or to go along with the system, and choose roles and specialties deemed acceptable for us, in which we are less likely to face obstacles.
Having met a huge number of women in different roles and positions, I have seen that the happiest women do what ignites them, what they have a soul for, and what they have talents and interests in. Therefore, listen to yourself and develop your self-awareness. Without doing so, it is very difficult to discard the voices of our parents, teachers, and the society in which we live, to hear the voice within us that says: I want to become a programmer, a solution architect, I want to create complex systems that improve the world, I want to launch rockets into space. There is no objective reason why women can't do these things as well as men. Whether to go against the current, be a pioneer, and set an example to girls and women of what is possible — this is the choice that each of us will make.
As a bonus you can watch several videos dedicated to the topic — Women in IT:
- How to learn EnglishLearn04 August 2022
- Learning English effectively: a modern approachLearn07 April 2023
- Anywhere Club turns 1 year oldCommunity19 May 2023
- 6 useful books for a novice DevOps engineerLearn12 May 2023
- What is a QA Automation Engineer and how can you become one?Work10 May 2023
- From policeman to QA EngineerWork05 May 2023
- Cloud adoption from a project management perspectiveLearn05 May 2023
- Roadmap for a junior Java developerLearn15 May 2023
- 6 stereotypes about life in HungaryRelocate30 June 2022
- IT language of the Back-End DeveloperLearn02 May 2023
- How to start a career as a UX Designer without work experienceWork18 April 2023
- IT language of Front-End DeveloperLearn10 April 2023
- 10 essential soft skills for information technologyWork11 May 2023
- How to change jobs without making a mistakeWork03 May 2023
- 20+ useful sources for learning JavaLearn23 May 2023
- Where and how to prepare for the profession of the futureLearn18 May 2023
- IT Language of UI/UX DesignerLearn17 May 2023
- English through music: learn and have funLearn04 November 2022
- Why we burn out and how to deal with itLearn14 April 2023
- Is it possible to burn out even at your favorite job?Work25 April 2023
- How to compose a resumeWork16 August 2022
- How to distribute an iOS App: 4 casesLearn15 February 2023
- What is bootcamp: how does it work and for whom is it suitableWork30 January 2023
- A Business Analyst is the profession of the future, isn’t it?Work21 April 2023
- 3 facilitation case studies: better and worse scenariosWork31 October 2022
- Best practices for data modeling and data cleaning in Power BILearn08 May 2023
- What you need to know to relocate to SerbiaRelocate26 May 2022
- How do you choose the best IT profession for you?Work17 March 2023
- Starting your coding journey with Python: a helpful guide for beginnersLearn26 May 2023
- What does a business analyst do?Work25 May 2023
- Mass layoffs in IT? An experienced financial advisor shares his thoughtsWork27 March 2023
- How do you draw positive attention to yourself?Work23 December 2022
- How to outsmart iOS widget documentation?Learn05 April 2023
- How to ask for a raise or promotionWork09 December 2022
- What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and why is it Important?Learn17 April 2023
- The easiest programming languages to learnLearn07 September 2022
- Soft skills are 85% of a person’s success in a professionWork29 December 2022
- How to pass a technical interview: tips from an expertWork04 April 2023
- Relocation is like the first child's birthRelocate23 May 2022
- IT language of the Business AnalystLearn23 January 2023
- How can a programmer without work experience find a jobWork01 February 2023
- The basic rules of the interviewWork08 February 2023
- How to find your own direction for development in ITWork22 March 2023
- How to become a Tester in three weeksWork19 May 2022
- Home for every IT professional in the worldCommunity19 May 2022
- What should a beginner Automation QA Engineer learnLearn29 September 2022
- How tech professionals can benefit from trying new team rolesWork24 May 2023
- What to read and watch for a novice Java EngineerLearn19 May 2022
- Who can you become in IT?Work13 December 2022
- IT language of the TesterLearn09 January 2023
- Tips from a career consultantWork20 January 2023
- IT language of Data AnalystsLearn06 February 2023
- How to look for a job in 2023Work13 February 2023
- IT Beard talks about Anywhere Club IT communityCommunity19 May 2022
- The Brain-Up project is looking for volunteersWork11 August 2022
- Project Manager responsibilities: tasks and skills vs realityWork31 October 2022
- Teamwork: 5 factors of effective interactionWork03 January 2023
- How to become a Backend DeveloperLearn31 January 2023
- How to give and receive feedback correctlyWork17 February 2023
- Life hacks and impressions of moving to PolandRelocate28 July 2022
- What is mentoring in IT and how does it help you master the profession?Learn27 December 2022
- 30+ useful books for designers in ITLearn20 March 2023
- How to become a DevOpsLearn06 October 2022
- Lithuania: features and life hacksRelocate10 October 2022
- 8 reasons to move to KrakowRelocate26 October 2022
- What to do to get into IT todayWork12 December 2022
- The incredible success story of a switcher in ITWork17 January 2023
- 5 qualities of an ideal Software EngineerLearn17 February 2023
- What does a cosmetologist do in ITWork10 March 2023
- From security guard to DevOpsWork13 March 2023
- Best countries to relocate for IT specialistsRelocate06 June 2022
- From travel agent to a Tester in ITWork20 July 2022
- Where to make friends with blockchainLearn25 August 2022
- Relocation to TurkeyRelocate31 August 2022
- Pros and cons of life in MontenegroRelocate08 September 2022
- “Forget about impostor syndrome”Community18 October 2022
- Life in Italy: what you need to prepareRelocate19 October 2022
- How does a junior get their first job in Singapore?Work22 November 2022
- "Where else but Spain?" — the experience of movingRelocate06 December 2022
- "By the time they come back with an offer, you can give birth"Work27 January 2023
- Skills of a Community ManagerWork06 March 2023
- How to use ChatGPT when writing a CV?AI09 May 2023
- How to start an IT career in testingWork01 June 2022
- Living in Serbia — pros and consRelocate16 June 2022
- Where is Python used and why should you study it in 2022Learn13 July 2022
- What is Data ScienceWork09 August 2022
- 7 soft skills for developersWork27 September 2022
- How to effectively give feedback?Work18 November 2022
- Trends in IT company eventsCommunity30 November 2022
- 10 things beginner startups don't need to doLearn05 January 2023
- Why do job applicants lie in interviewsWork12 January 2023
- How do you increase productivityLearn02 March 2023
- The reality and myths of life in TurkeyRelocate19 May 2022
- Tips for relocating to SerbiaRelocate02 June 2022
- An 8-month journey to Front-EndWork04 July 2022
- The real story of a radical change in professionWork18 July 2022
- Why time management doesn't workLearn19 September 2022
- Relocation to GeorgiaRelocate20 September 2022
- How to manage interview anxietyWork12 October 2022
- Business Analyst in IT: what you need to know and doLearn14 November 2022
- 3 ways to find your dream jobWork24 November 2022
- How to learn Ruby on your ownLearn25 November 2022
- Juniors are needed for companiesWork22 December 2022
- Android: what should beginners and professionals doLearn09 June 2022
- How do expatriates live in UzbekistanRelocate15 June 2022
- What is a vocation, and does it exist in 2022Work20 June 2022
- What are some of the unusual jobs in ITWork21 June 2022
- How to support someone who is stressedCommunity23 June 2022
- The joys and challenges of relocation to HungaryRelocate11 July 2022
- Family traumas in emigrationRelocate03 August 2022
- What impresses in MontenegroRelocate18 August 2022
- Doctor in ITWork24 August 2022
- How to become an HR managerWork05 September 2022
- Top iOS Developer resourcesLearn12 September 2022
- Features of life in GermanyRelocate05 October 2022
- Facilitation: how to conduct it effectivelyWork17 October 2022
- 10 ways to stay on top of IT trendsLearn25 October 2022
- What does a botanist do in IT?Work04 November 2022
- Effectively launching as a junior: an expert's viewWork23 November 2022
- Sent out 500 resumes and moved to UzbekistanWork28 November 2022
- ChatGPT will not replace a human: an expert opinion on IT hypeAI27 February 2023
- 5 myths about IT: true or falseWork19 May 2022
- 5 common questions about relocationRelocate19 May 2022
- To learn how to write code, you have to write codeWork24 May 2022
- The psychological trauma of emigrantsRelocate28 June 2022
- How to avoid burnout and stay productive in 2022Work06 July 2022
- Top 5 startup books to read in 2022Learn27 July 2022
- What do you need to know about the south of SpainRelocate22 August 2022