Introduction to Women in Technology – SQL University

Welcome to week 11 of the Spring 2010 semester of SQL University – it’s Women in Technology Week.  My colleague, Prof. Jes Borland (blog, Twitter), will be lecturing later this week on the history of women in tech.  I’d like to start us off with an open discussion. 

Note: Let me first say that I’m largely limiting the scope of my lectures to the U.S.A. – not to be exclusive, but because that’s the range of my experience. I would love to see some class participation from men and women with work experience in other parts of the world.

I’m speaking on the topic of women in technology (WIT) because I am one, I work with and are friends with many.  You may be a woman in tech, or you’ve worked with women in tech, and you wonder: “What’s the big deal? I work with blue eyed people in tech, too, but they don’t have a whole week at SQLU and a PASS Virtual Chapter.”  You know, it’s kind of a good sign that you feel that way.

We are at (what I see as) the tail end of, or the wrap-up to, a very long struggle for equal rights and equal standing between the sexes.  We’ve largely (but not completely) done away with sexism, open discrimination in education and in the workplace, unequal opportunity and so forth. So what’s the big deal?

Do a quick search on “numbers women in technology”, and you’ll have pages of articles on the decreasing numbers of women in technology.

In the United States, the number of women represented in engineering and information technology peaked in the late 1980s. Since then, the percentage of women in the computing profession declined from 35.2% in 1990 to 28.4% in 2000.[1] Particularly in computer science, there has been a dramatic drop in women earning bachelor’s degrees. A report from the Computing Research Association indicated that the number recently fell below 20%, from nearly 40% in the mid 80s.[2] A similar situation is observed in Canada, where the declination of women in computer science is apparent. – Wiki article on Women in Computing

These numbers mean simply that out of every 5 computer science college graduates, 4 are men. Of every 4 computer professionals, roughly 3 are men. The WIT movement isn’t about making enemies and promoting conflict; rather, it’s an interest in interconnected causes and results:

  • There are many more men in technology than women.  Why?  What are the issues around the decline in numbers?
  • How do these numbers hurt the industry? How will more womein in technology improve the industry?
  • How can we make technology a more viable career for women?

These are some of the questions we’ll cover in more detail later this week.  Meanwhile, class, you have some homework! 

Your assignment: Write down a few thoughts about women in technology – if you like, you can address the questions posed above, or just record your own thoughts about the topic that this lesson inspired – and either blog, comment, or email me at (I will honor requests for anonymity).  You will be graded on participation, not content or opinion!

Class dismissed!

-Jen McCown, SQLU Professor

5 thoughts on “Introduction to Women in Technology – SQL University”

  1. I read the article back in Feb from And was wondering then as I am now…Dept of Labor shows in 2009 [] that of the 122 million women age 16 yrs and over, 59.2% (72mil) were labor force participants (working or looking for work). Which of that 2009 report of the 66 mil women employed, 74% were full-time and 26% part-time.

    Which the MSNBC article states 27% of computer-related jobs are held by women (they don’t specify date of the report). I’m curious if the decline is being seen in computer-related jobs, what job category or field of work is seeing an increase by women??? The Dept of Labor report shows the top 20 occupations with the highest weekly pay among women who were full-time wage and salary pay. The top 3 being: (1) Pharmacists, (2) Lawyers, (3) Computer & Information Systems managers, (4) computer software Chief Executives.

    So does this show that they are leaving IT for pharmacy and law school? Which you think about it, of the drug reps out there how many are male? I know lawyers that are both female and male. I know a good many teachers that are female, and only a few that are male.

  2. Excellent question; if fewer women are going into IT, then where are the numbers growing? This gives me food for thought for the next lecture. Thanks Shawn!

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