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Closing the Gender Gap in Information Technology

Women are making inroads into the male-dominated field of IT, as illustrated by the careers of Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook), Kim Stevenson (CIO, Intel), Virginia Rometty (CEO, IBM) and our own CEO Meg Whitman. But the percentage of leadership roles held by women within the IT industry remains low and the number of women pursing computer science degrees is still small. Currently, only 12% of bachelor degrees in computer science are earned by women, and recent studies show that women make up only 17% of the technology workforce.


Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, is among the many IT leaders who have pointed out the importance of education in closing this gender gap. Mayer’s original path was a double major in biology and chemistry. However, she changed her degree to computer science after taking a class for non-majors. She believes, as do many others, that the US needs to create more computer scientists in general to ensure our overall competitiveness in the global IT environment. In a recent NPR interview, she stated that 98% of Google engineers were exposed to computer science in high school.  This illustrates how education is a critical component to changing the future IT landscape and bringing more women into the field.


But it’s not just celebrity corporate leaders like Mayer who are pointing the way forward. The following women may be less well known, but they are working just as hard to increase the presence of women in IT.


Reshma Saujani

Founder of the organization Girls Who Code, Saujani is working to close the gender gap by educating and equipping young women with the skills and resources to pursue academic and career opportunities in computing fields.  Her organization has committed to teach 1 million girls coding skills by 2020, through summer programs, high school clubs and online curriculum.   


Maria Klawe

President of Harvey Mudd College, a science and engineering school in Southern California, Klawe is passionate about getting more women involved in computing. She was featured in the 2012 Forbes article, Here’s the Real Reason There Are Not More Women in Technology, in which she cites girls’ lack of exposure to technology classes in their formative years as a hindrance to them pursuing the field.  She is helping develop a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for 10th graders in order to get more girls immersed at an earlier age.


Maggie Morrison

In a recent article on the subject, HP general account manager Maggie Morrison urged women to enter the IT industry, since projections show over 40,000 people are needed in the industry over the next four years.  Morrison spoke at an event organized in part by Scotland Women in Technology (SWIT), which aims to “attract, inspire, empower and retain” women in the sector by developing a community and network to help increase their contribution to IT business.  


From a company standpoint, HP promotes women in technology through participation in events and contributions to education.  In 2012 HP made an impact by being the first contributor to UoPeople Women Scholarship Fund. Through this program HP has provided funding for 100 female students in 2012 and 2013 to pursue the associate degree programs of their choice at the online non-profit University of the People (UoPeople). HP also contributes to events such as EveryoneHacks, a hackathon event held in January of this year that enabled the collaboration of teachers, students and developers.


Through the continuation and expansion of these types of efforts from both individuals and companies, it is possible the gender gap in IT will be closed going forward. 


Laura Cunningham is a CPA and business consultant with HP’s Technology Consulting.  She helps CIOs and their teams bridge the gap between what the CIO wants and what the CFO requires by building a comprehensive business case that can withstand financial scrutiny.

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