Posted: 10 Aug 2017
The general consensus is that the rarer an item is, the more precious it is considered to be, and perhaps one of the rarest elements within the IT industry is the female programmer. In an industry so heavily dominated by men, there is a high demand in the IT industry for women to make their mark.
This subject is currently a hot topic in the tech world, with much interest surrounding the reasons why the industry is not as diverse in terms of gender as other industries. The low number of females within software development, in particular, has been well documented in the media, and a lot of emphasis has been placed on a lack of encouragement by education institutions for young women to pursue degrees in computer science. However, big changes to both the education system and the industry could look to dramatically change this.
Movements over recent years are looking to close the gender gap in those taking up computer science, with American-based organisation ‘Girls who code’ leading the mission for drastic industry change with their coding programs, specifically for teenage girls, available around America. Other international networks have also worked over the years to improve the overview of the tech-working environment worldwide, including Irish-based organisation Girls Hack Ireland who run workshops at Dublin City University for teenage girls aged 13 to 17.
The on-going research into why there are fewer women in computer science is essential in helping to eliminate the issue and help in the recruitment of more women into coding roles. One of the main schools of thought that has negatively moulded the current employment structure is that men are more linear thinking than women, whilst women are thought to be better at more emotive and social issues, thus making them better suited to other roles within alternative industries. However, these stereotypical thoughts leave the industry lacking a diverse working landscape that is needed to keep up with the ever-evolving technological trends and demands of the end-users.
This, amongst other reasons, has resulted in not enough women pursuing computer science degrees, thus steering them away from careers within the IT industry. However, as the tech industry expands, more workers are needed, creating a demand for women who have specialist IT skills to contribute to the industry.
From 2018, Irish schools will be rolling out coding lessons in primary and secondary schools, with the hope that the Irish education system will be the best within Europe by 2026. Irish children will be able to learn computer science and obtain a Leaving Certificate within the subject, just like foreign languages, helping the next generation to easily obtain roles within the IT industry in later life. Teaching children at this influential stage will open up the opportunities for girls to pursue the necessary educational route for a career in coding, and help to eliminate the stereotypical assumptions that have previously influenced other women before them.
Whilst fewer women currently pursue computer science degrees internationally, with numbers declining across the board, the hope is that the introduction of coding within the curriculum of institutions across the world will help to combat this issue. This comes at a time when the computer science degree is in high demand, particularly in the Irish employment landscape; it is also the degree that earns Irish graduates the most money upon completion, according to research. Those with a bachelor degree within the computer science/information and communications technology (ICT) have a starting salary of €29,000 or over, making them the highest earning graduates on average within the whole of Ireland.
There are online computer science courses that will help women coders who want to develop their skills, without the need for university education, to get into the workplace; these virtual learning spaces run by a number of institutions and organisations are already being rolled out internationally. Contributions such as these may help to shape a more gender-neutral working environment in the years to come.
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