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Supporting the Next Generation of Women in IT

Hadley Hempel


With the rapid pace of innovation and continued growth of technology jobs, the future looks bright for our industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2026, computer and IT occupations are projected to grow 13 percent from where they stood in 2016, adding over half a million new jobs.

Computer occupations make up nearly 45 percent of STEM employment (bit.ly/2ohfnI9), with engineers accounting for another 19 percent. But there’s still a great discrepancy in the percentage of women in these occupations. IBM has a long history of support for women in technology, but we know there is still a long way to go for women to be equally represented in STEM professions.

Much has been written about the gender gap in the technology industry, but perhaps the most startling to me are the studies that have shown the problem has actually gotten worse since the 1990s. “Girls Who Code” notes that in 1995, 37 percent of computer scientists were women, versus only 24 percent today. And in 10 years, the number of women in computing will decrease to just 22 percent if we don’t act to address this issue. So what can we do?

Increase the number of women who are interested in and qualified for these jobs by supporting programming for high school and college-age girls to continue their engagement in STEM fields of study. The largest drop happens during the teen years, when the percentage of girls interested or enrolled in computing programs drops sharply from 66 percent to just 32 percent (bit.ly/1Y3AVEq). By the time they reach college, only 4 percent will remain engaged with computing programs.

The gender gap will never close (or even rebound) unless we garner more interest among this population. Since the summer of 1999, IBM has organized and run a technology camp staffed by IBM women volunteers with educational and professional backgrounds in technology. I had the opportunity to chair the committee that organized one of these camps at the IBM Austin site in 2017, and was delighted to see the level of interest and engagement the girls had with the subject matter and activities, and their desire to continue learning in this area.

Create direct pathways to technology jobs. IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program is a system of six-year public schools that offers instruction in STEM fields to 100,000 students. By fostering the potential of these young people and focusing on inclusion in recruiting efforts, we will be able to bring more talented women into STEM jobs, with or without a university degree.

Support women in the workplace and focus on the advancement and potential of women with leadership potential. Programs to identify talent early, empower self-promotion and create a strong pipeline of emerging leaders are critical to success. But beyond those programs, we must continue to focus on policies that will provide the flexibility needed for women to stay in the workplace while having a family, or to re-enter the workforce after having children.

We are proud of our progress and successes to-date, and committed to creating an even more inclusive and empowering culture for women at IBM. I enjoyed reading this report (ibm.co/2O6hL2N) about how IBM has worked to develop and support women in technology, and I hope you’ll also find it informative and inspiring.


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