Does the glass ceiling still exist for women in information technology

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Does the glass ceiling still exist for women in information technology

  1. 1. DOES THE GLASS CEILING STILL EXIST FOR WOMEN IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY? Belinda Edwards UMUC Issues, Trends, Strategies for Computer Systems Management CSMN 601-1111 4 December 2006 Prof. Billy GayBelinda Edwards 1
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract ................................................................................................................................................. 3Barriers ................................................................................................................................................. 4 Socialization ....................................................................................................................................... 4 Bias: Cultural and Corporate ............................................................................................................. 5 Networking ......................................................................................................................................... 6 Professional Growth, Promotion, and Pay Issues .............................................................................. 7 Work-Life Balance .............................................................................................................................. 8Summary............................................................................................................................................. 10Conclusions ........................................................................................................................................ 11Support Resources ............................................................................................................................. 12Appendix A: About the Survey Participants ........................................................................................ 13Appendix B: Survey Questions ........................................................................................................... 14References.......................................................................................................................................... 15 List of figures/tablesSurvey Participant Demographics 1 ...................................................................................................... 9Recommendations for breaking the ‗glass ceiling‘ 2 ........................................................................... 11IT Support Resources 3 ...................................................................................................................... 12Belinda Edwards 2
  3. 3. AbstractPurpose – This paper examines current views and research regarding the existence of the glassceiling, described as ―the invisible barrier that blocks women from the most senior positions incorporate America.‖ (Feyerherm & Vick, 2005, p. 210). This study limits its scope to women withinthe information technology (IT) industry. The paper assesses prevailing thoughts behind thecause,persistence, and solution to the glassceiling.Design/methodology/approach – This study looks at women within the technology industry andexaminestheir experiences throughout their careersas well ascorporate culture. Research was takenfrom personal interviews, survey responses, scholarly and industry literature.Findings – The study found that survey respondents believe that the glass ceiling still exists, but isless prevalent then in years past. Collective responses show that corporations need to do a betterjob in career mentoring, providing role models; encouraging greater participation via women focusgroups, providing and/or maintainingflexible work schedules for working mothers, and sponsoringforums for discussion of experiences within the IT industry which will reduce feelings of isolation).Current literature support these findings as well, (i.e. Todd, et. al., 2005; Cohoon& Aspray, 2006;Riemenschneider, et. al., 2003, Michie& Nelson, 2006).Research limitations/implications – This study is limited to a focus on women in the IT industry,with survey responses coming specifically from those currently employed therein.Surveys were takenof 22 women, currently employed in technical positions ranging from vice president to IT architect,with professional work experience ranging from 6 to 42 years. The surveys elicited views andexperiences on perceptions of the existence of a glass ceiling. Adirector of work/life balance for aFortune 500 company also participated and offered insight on corporate policy specific to workplaceequality and promotion. The scope of this report could be widened to incorporate comparisonresearch of Caucasian and African-American women in this industry, as experiences both paralleland contrast.Belinda Edwards 3
  4. 4. BarriersAccenture Consulting conducted a study of 1,200 executives in eight countries, including the U.S.,Australia, Austria and the Philippines. In all four countries, about 70% of women and 57% of menbelieve an invisible barrier--a glass ceiling--prevents women from getting ahead in business (Clark,2006). The belief in the glass ceiling is one of the contributing factors to the under representation ofwomen in information technology (IT). According to the 2003 Information Technology Association ofAmerica (ITAA) Blue Ribbon Panel on Information Technology (IT) Diversity (2003) report, thepercentage of women in the IT workforce in 1996 was 41% and fell to 34.9% in 2002(Riemenschneider et al., 2003, p. 3). Together, these perceptions and facts have causedgovernment and industry to examine the reasons behind the decline and to offer ways to encouragegirls to consider working in IT as well as to retain women currently employed in IT.A report of the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Womenand Minorities in Science,Engineering, and Technology Development states, ―The Commission recognizes that . . . genderstereotypes are still pervasive in professional life. For women . . . these problems are manifested ininadequate work and family lifeaccommodation, unequal pay scales and advancement . . . . ‖(Allen,2005; CAWMSET, 2000, p. 4). Several factors have been identified as barriers for women in IT: (1)socialization; (2) bias; (3) professional advancement, and (4) work-life balance.SocializationA 2002 studyentitledA Nation Onlinestates that ―as of September, 2001, 90 percent of all US childrenwere using computers and internet use was almost identical: 53.9 percent males and 53.8 female‖(Cohoon & Aspray, 2006, p.4).Socialization begins at birth, impacting educational expectations (gradeschool and college major selection),and carries forward to employment pursuits.Parents‘ andteachers‘attitudes towardbehavior and the roles of boys and girls, combined with the amount ofcomputer use at school and home, often correlatesto whether a girl has a positive outlook towardcomputers. Expectations of students concerning their ability to pursue various male-and female-Belinda Edwards 4
  5. 5. dominated occupations correspond to prevail patterns of occupational sex typing (Michie & Nelson,2006). As a survey participantstated so eloquently: I think in many ways our socialization handicaps us in the IT industry much the same as it does in the automobile (i.e. mechanic) industry. Men spit out names, attributes and speeds in IT, like they talk pistons, cams, cylinders, etc. on cars. Fedora, Xen, Firefox, dual core, cell, MB, Petaflop, SCSI, NAS, SAN, Fiber channel, portal and the list goes on endlessly. I don‘t know if the difference is nature of socialization, but in general, women don‘t live to be able to brag about the latest widget on their laptop, on the mainframe, on the network, etc. We don‘t setup multiple computers to play on at home any more than we have to have the latest and greatest Gameboy, television or audio equipment. (Personal communication, 2006)It is important to increase girls‘ involvement in ITas(1). increased presence will increase the qualifiedlabor pool; (2) IT jobs offer favorable working conditions, with salaries above the national average; (3)value has been found in a diverse workforce; and (4) applying computing as a tools for solving bigproblem sis considered critical to the US future and economy (Cohoon and Aspray, 2006, p. 13-14).Bias: Cultural and CorporateInformation technology is believed to be a ―male‘s domain.‖ Studies indicate that individuals are lessfavorably disposed toward women in information technology careers than men in those careers.Carol Kovac, director of IBM Life Sciences, states: [t]echnical environments are ones where you fight for your ideas, and if you automatically have ideas dismissed because of some kind of cultural subtlety, you have to fight harder. And if you fight harder, then you‘re a bitch. Stated simply, ―You‘re always trying to prove yourself, because females are not always well-received in the tech field (Matwyshyn, 2003).Collectively, the view from survey respondents is that (1) women always have to work harder to provetheir worth, (2) they have to work harder to prove their ability to handle the job, (3) acceptance andencouragement for women comes after long hard hours withno room for error.Belinda Edwards 5
  6. 6. NetworkingA 2004 study by CATALYST reported that ―barriers facing African-American women in businessinclude negative, race-based stereotypes; more frequent questioning of their credibility and authority;and a lack of institutional support. Experiencing a ―double outsider‖ status—unlike white women orAfrican-American men, who share gender or race in common with most colleagues or managers—African-American women report exclusion from informal networks, and conflicted relationships withwhite women, among the challenges they face‖ (Catalyst, 2004).A survey participant stated: ―While it‘s perfectly acceptable for males to ―have a best friend at work‖ and routinely travel with the same crowd, a woman who does the same could be asked if there‘s something going on between herself and the ‗best friend‘ [if male], or regular male travel buddies.When the balance shifts to the point where a female manager in an IT-based organization is no longer a distinct minority member, I believe these barriers will finally come down.‖Female managers state the existence of the ―old boy network‖ as one of the barriers to women‘sadvancement. It consists of old lines of communication and can serve to reinforce male dominance,thereby institutionalizing inequality (Bell&Nkomo, 2001, p. 153).Belinda Edwards 6
  7. 7. Professional Growth, Promotion, and Pay IssuesEmpirical studies have focused primarily on outcomes, such as salary, promotion rates, turnover, orcareer aspirations to account for the ―revolving door‖ for women in IT (Wright, 1997; Michie& Nelson,2006).A survey participant said: I think a woman has to be much more careful in terms of how she presents herself – her wardrobe, her interactions with colleagues, her speech, her conversation, her poise – in order to be taken as seriously as male counterparts. She must strive extra hard to achieve a ―professional‖ and serious image.‖ While another wrote ―that being said, I always felt that I had to work twice as hard and be twice as qualified as my male counterparts to remain in competition. (Personal Communication, 2006)According to Ramsay & McCorduck (2005), women earn lower performance ratings in assumed maleskills(instrumental and task-oriented assignments), leading to fewer promotions and lower pay. Theirskills at ―soft‖ tasks are undervalued because those skills are ―natural‖ for women and thus don‘tcount as an achievement. Paradoxically, adequate performance by men in women‘s presumed skills(nurturing, emotional expressiveness, and communication) is considered exceptional, leading tobetter ratings, faster promotions and higher pay for them. Managers who hold unexaminedstereotypical expectations will possibly grade their women employees as ―less able‖ despite objectiveevidence to the contrary.One survey participant admitted that ―although I‘ve been at one company for a number of years, Ihave had to perform a number of inter-departmental transfers in order to receive promotions oradequate pay raises.‖While another wrote, I think I have not been promoted because I haven‘t pushed for it. The ―rules‖ for how you are promoted remain unclear to me. This is where I believe sponsorship (who you know and timing) comes in. I think that ―they‖ think we ―just know‖ what to do to be promoted. I don‘t.Belinda Edwards 7
  8. 8. What‘s more, after observing what managers do in their jobs, some of us have made a conscious choice to NOT be promoted. I believe that promotions within major corporations may cost more in terms of peace of mind, self-respect, and loss of personal time than they pay in money. If money is your prime driver, promotions are a primary goal. If you have other values you hold dear, promotions may be extraneous or even undesirable. Note that it is part of the male culture to keep score with money or the illusion of money. This is not as much part of the female culture (Personal Communication, 2006).Work-LifeBalanceA widespread assumption that hampers women‘s professional development is that by virtue of beingwomen, they cannot fully participate in work. While it‘s true that women often shoulder more familyresponsibilities than men, the presumption more than the reality tends to limit women‘s advancement,with their outside responsibilities a foregone conclusion. As one participant put it, On occasion, when I have been involved in high profile projects, my family has suffered, but, I must say that is not limited to women in the business world. How many men actually get to spend quality time with their children on a regular basis? (Personal Communication, 2006)A 1997 survey of ACM members found that the women were more likely to be single than the men,and, if married, they were less likely to have children (Cohoon & Aspray, 2006, p. 402). Whencomparing this data with that from my survey, I found that of the 22 participants, 9 were single,married, or divorced without children, 3 were divorced with children, and 10 were married with at leasttwo children.While the results from survey participants, (41 percent were childless), did not directlycorrelate with studies‘ findings, most stated having made a conscience decision of family over work.Belinda Edwards 8
  9. 9. Survey Participant Demographics1 Number Martial of Status Children Divorced 0 Divorced 0 Married 0 Married 0 Single 0 Single 0 Single 0 Single 0 Single (Widow) 0 Divorced 1 Married 1 Married 1 Married 1 Married 1 Divorced 2 Divorced 2 Married 2 Married 2 Married 2 Married 2 Married 3 Married 4When the participants that are working mothers were asked whether they felt they had to choosebetween work and family, all said some sort of ―choice‖ had been made: a flexible work schedule,making a conscious decision to forego career advancement, or moving to a different part of thecountry that was deemed more family-friendly than the DC metropolitan area.Belinda Edwards 9
  10. 10. SummaryFirst, there is no universal definition of masculine or feminine behavior; what is considered masculinein some societies is considered feminine or gender-neutral in others. Second, while genderdifferences exist they are manifested differently in different societies. Hence, addressing the gendergap in IT employment based upon an assumed ―woman‘s perspective‖ is problematic (Trauth, et. al.,2004).The barriers that continue to present challenges to women in IT include social, cultural, and corporatebias, inexperience with networking opportunities, professional growth and promotion, salary disparity,and work-life balance constraints. Women should be accepted for their talents, skills, and abilities.The US can ill afford to negate or ignore IT contributions just because they come from a person whois female.Progress continues to be made towards tearing down the ‗glass ceiling‘ for women in informationtechnology. Within one Fortune 500 company, the only corporate-sponsored affinity group is directedat women – Networking Professional Women (NPW). Its mission is to facilitate networking andmentorship amongst the female technical staff. The corporation also encourages female employeeengagement via employee recognition, promotion, and reassignment to higher visibility projects. As aresult, between the years of 2000 – 2006, the company has increased the percentage of female hiresby 17 percent (Personal Communication, 2006).Belinda Edwards 10
  11. 11. ConclusionsSurvey participants provided the following suggestions to improve promotion and retention for womenin information technology, leading to the destruction of the ‗glass ceiling‘:Recommendationsfor breaking the ‘glass ceiling’2Sponsorship Work-Life Balance Mentoring Promotion/Career AdvancementEncourage greater Offer telecommuting Provide mentorship Provide guidance onparticipation and options programs, which assist existing careerorganization of in career development. opportunities within thewomen‘s focus groups organization, andor diversity networking provide examples forgroups improved preparationEnsure the financial Create a flexible Sponsor forums and Encourage women tosupport of female atmosphere which will panels where women speak up and not beemployees to attend accommodate all family can discuss and share afraid to challenge theconferences that focus issues their experiences in the normon the career growth of IT industrywomenActively seek out high- Family Leave Act Provide role models Put more women inpotential women enforcement positionsof highbecause a company visibility to encourageneeds them in high younger women topositions, as they have pursue a career of ITexperienced being―different‖ and bring apersonal perspective tobuilding a vibrantdiverse work place Break old serotypes First I‘d seek women out, and then put a program in place specifically to mentor them and help them manage their careers. Not just pulling strings in the background, but providing training in the art of standing up for oneself, not only in meetings, but in discussions with managers and executives. We‘re not going to learn how things are done over pool, golf or beer. Men have a long standing tradition of handing this information down informally. While women are beginning such traditions themselves the bottom line is we haven‘t been doing it as long so the knowledge isn‘t as deep and we tend to be few and far between so the opportunities are fewer. Companies need to provide access to the crib notes (Personal Communication).Belinda Edwards 11
  12. 12. SupportResourcesEven if women are underrepresented in the classroom and workplace, support networks can beutilized to offset feelings of isolation (Todd, et. al., 2005).IT Support Resources 3Organization Purpose WebsiteACM Careers http://campus.acm.org/crc/index-hme1-crc.cfmACM Women in http://campus.acm.org/crc/cri/categorylist-cri24- Technology crc.cfm?cat_id=7&CFID+29282093&CFTOKEN=67511951ACM-W Improve the http://women.acm.org/ working and learning environmentsAnita Borg Institute Increase the http://www.anitaborg.org/for Women and impact of womenTechnology on all areas of technologyCenter for Women dedicated to http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/in Technology providing global leadership in achieving womens full participation in all aspects of information technologyMentorNet Links female http://www.mentornet.net/ students to industry and academia mentors in an email environmentWebgrrls Career advice, http://www.webgrrls.com female only job bankWomen in help women http://www.witi.com/Technology advance byInternational providing access to - and support from - other professional women working in all sectors of technologyBelinda Edwards 12
  13. 13. Appendix A: About the Survey ParticipantsTwenty-five (25) women were distributed copies of the survey questions, with twenty-two (22)completed surveys received. A set of questions was developed (attached Appendix B), whichfocused on the views interviewees‘ had around the existence of a glass ceiling and how it affectedtheir careers. Interviewees often volunteered information about theirpersonal lives and professionalexperiences. The full setof questions was originally distributed on November 3, 2006.It was my hope was to collect as much information from each interviewee as possible, participantschose to provide in-depth answers to some questions, while providing yes/no answers to others.Each participant wished to remain anonymous. All interviewees agreed to follow up interviews ifdesired.Belinda Edwards 13
  14. 14. Appendix B: Survey Questions SURVEY QUESTIONS Name Age Martial Status Number of Children Job Title Years of Experience Years of IT Experience Years with Current Employer Do you believe there is a glass ceiling? Have you always had a love of math and science? How/why did you choose a career in IT? Were you encouraged or discouraged during your pursuit of a career in IT? Do you think you‘ve been passed over for promotion because of your age/sex/race? Why/why not? Do you think women in the IT workplace face different or more barriers than men? If so, what types of barriers and why? Do you feel you‘ve had to make a choice between work and family? Have you felt you had to change employers to progress professionally? Why/Why not? If you were in charge, what kind of changes would you make in your organization to better retain and promote women? Do you feel that women entering the workforce have greater professional opportunities than when you first began your IT career? While studies show female participation in IT has dropped steadily, what do you think can be done to improve female participation within the IT industry? Do you participate in a mentoring relationship (whether through your employer or self initiated)? If so, or you the mentor, mentee, or both?Belinda Edwards 14
  15. 15. References Allen, M. W., Armstrong, D. J., Riemenschneider, C. K., & Reid, M. F. (2005). Making sense of the barriers women face in the IT work force: Standpoint theory, self-disclosure, and cognitive maps(ITRI-WP056-0505). Submitted to Sex Roles. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from http://itrc.uark.edu/research/display.asp?article=ITRI-WP056-0505. Bell, E.L.J. E.& Nkomo, S. M. (2001). Our separate ways: Black and white women and the struggle for professional identity. Boston: HarvardBusinessSchool Press. CATALYST (2004). CATALYST report outlines unique challenges faced by african-american women in business; ―Concrete ceiling‖ difficult to shatter; diversity programs need strengthening. Catalyst Publications, New York, NY. Clark, H. (2006). Are women happy under the glass ceiling? Retrieved November 26, 2006, fromhttp://www.forbes.com. Cohoon, J. M.,& Aspray, W. (2006). Women and information technology research on underrepresentation. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Feyerherm,A.,& Vick, Y.H. (2005). Generation X women in high technologyOvercoming gender and generationalchallenges to succeed in the corporateenvironment. Career Development International, 10 (3), pp. 216-227.Belinda Edwards 15
  16. 16. Matwyshyn, A. M. (2003). Silicon ceilings: Information technology equity, the digital divide and the gender gap among information technology professionals. Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. Retrieved October 5, 2006 from http://www.law.northwestern.edu/journals/njtip/v2/n1/2. Melymuka, K. (2002). The glass ceiling: Barrier or challenge? Computerworld, 36(10), 36. Retrieved November 5, 2006 from ABI/INFORM Global database. Michie, S.,& Nelson, D. (2006). Barriers women face in information technology careers: Self- efficacy, passion and gender biases. Women in Management Review,21(1), pp. 10-27. Ramsey, N.,& McCorduck, P. (2005). Where are the women in information technology?Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Riemenschneider, C. K., Armstrong, D. J., Allen, M. W., & Reid, M. (2003). Challenges and barriers facing women in the IT workforce (ITRI-WP041-1103). Submitted to The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems Special Section of IT Personnel Research. Retrieved October 31, 2006, fromhttp://itrc.uark.edu/research/display.asp?article=ITRI-WP041-1103. Tapia, A. H., &Kvasny, L. (2004). Recruitment is never enough: Retention of women and minorities in the IT workplace. Proceedings of the 2004 SIGMIS conference on Computer personnel research: Careers, culture, and ethics in a networked environment.Tucson, AZ. Retrieved October 5, 2006, from ACM Digital Library database.Belinda Edwards 16
  17. 17. Todd, K., Mardis, L., & Wyatt, P. (2005). Weve come a long way, baby! But where women and technology are concerned, have we really? Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM SIGUCCS Conference on User Services.Monterey, CA. Retrieved October 5, 2006, from ACM Digital Library database. Trauth, E. M., Quesenberry, J. L., & Morgan, A. J. (2004). Understanding the under representation of women in IT: Toward a theory of individual differences. Proceedings of the 2004 SIGMIS conference on Computer personnel research: Careers, culture, and ethics in a networked environment.Tucson, AZ. Retrieved October 8, 2006, from ACM Digital Library database. Woszczynski, A., Myers, M., Beise, C., & Moody, J. (2004). Diversity within the ranks: How ethnicity affects choices in IT. Retrieved December 1, 2006 from http://science.kennesaw.edu/~mmyers/amcis04-diversity-final.docBelinda Edwards 17

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