Women in Data Analytics, Information Technology, and STEM: Progress and Room to Grow

By CSU Global - March 29th, 2018

In this blog post, CSU Global’s Director of Institutional Research, Sondra D’Aquisto, shares her findings about women in data analytics, information technology, and other STEM fields.

As the head of institutional research for CSU Global, I was asked to share my thoughts about women in data analytics and information technology…I thought, sure! I can do that. I am a woman, and I LOVE data analytics! From my point of view, women have made great strides in increasing their numbers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields since I began my career in data analytics, over ten years ago.

AsI sat down to write the blog, and being the data nerd that I am, my first instinct was to research and find evidence supporting this progress (don’t be surprised to find me sharing a lot of data in this blog)!

Unfortunately, my internet search left me feeling depressed and outraged. For example, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, “In 2016, 26 percent of the computing workforce were women, and fewer than 10 percent were women of color,” and that similarly, only, “18 percent of 2015 Computer and Information Sciences bachelor degree recipients were female.”

How can this be? I’m quite certain strides have been made! I feel them! When I look at CSU Global employees, the data analysts are predominantly female, as is the business intelligence team; our Salesforce developer is also female. The statistics just didn’t make sense to me.

Naturally, I kept researching. I found that according to the Pew Research Center, not all STEM fields are the same. For instance, in 2016, 75 percent of the STEM health-related occupations consisted of  of women, similar to 72 percent in 1990. For math, 46 percent consisted of women, up from 43 percent. In the life sciences, women made up 47 percent (an increase from 34 percent). Big gains are also seen in physical sciences, where in 2016, the female workforce  filled 39 percent of occupations, up from only 22 percent in 1990. Unfortunately, in the category of computer occupations, 25 percent comprise women — this is down from 1990, when it was 32 percent!

I thought I was on to something! See…we had made strides in some STEM fields, but not in all of them. Even in math, there was a positive, albeit small, increase. Why not in computer science? What could it be?

Now, back to that Pew article I mentioned: In that same study, they examined attributes most important to males and females regarding STEM jobs. The study found 59 percent of women felt that having a job focused on helping others was important, while only 31 percent of men felt the same. Additionally, 60 percent of women reported that making a meaningful contribution to society was important, compared to 51 percent of men.

On the contrary, 57 percent of men felt that having opportunities for promotion was important, and 59 percent felt that having a high paying job was significant. This was 46 percent and 48 percent for women, respectively. Is it possible that less women have been choosing IT careers? I feel weird even writing that – but maybe?  

I then stumbled upon a mind-blowing article, based upon a study in Psychological Studies journal, that stated the greater a country’s gender equality, the greater the number of women in STEM. Their speculations as to why this is the case were very enlightening. For instance, in more gender-equal countries where girls (as well as boys) are taught that they can do anything they want to do, women and girls seek the clearest path to financial freedom.

Perhaps women aren’t choosing IT fields in the U.S., even though they choose other STEM fields. Perhaps they are more drawn to the other STEM areas, such as medicine and health sciences, driven more by meaningful work and less by salary and promotion?  

What does this mean? On one hand, I felt outraged, and possibly even a little confused, as I believe there should be more women in IT and in all STEM fields. On the other hand, I felt very proud. Proud of my own organization. Proud of the women around me in these fields and proud of those women who inspired me.

The fact is, the number of  women employed in a variety of STEM fields has increased, and specific fields may not be as important as the overall progress of women in STEM.  More importantly, some of us (i.e. me) may have been focused on the fact that, “18 percent of 2015 Computer and Information Sciences bachelor degree recipients were female,” that we failed to notice that for the same year, “57 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients were female” — and that is worth CELEBRATING!!!

+

Subscribe to the Global Broadcast

Each month, receive articles that inform and inspire.