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June 14, 2019 | Purdue University Global | Updated June 30, 2021
Working women have had an interesting relationship with careers in computer science (CS) and information technology (IT) over the last 50 years. The field was dominated by men; then from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, there was a steady increase in women in computing, then a leveling off, and then a decline, according to NPR. With computer and information technology occupations continuing to grow, there are many opportunities for both men and women in computer technology.
This article reviews the history of women in computer science, current opportunities for women, and resources to help women explore and grow in computer science fields.
Quick Look Back: Women in Technology by the Numbers
From 1970 to the mid-1980s was an exciting time for anyone working with computers and technology, especially as more women began entering a field traditionally held by men. The number of women graduating with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science was on a steady increase.
Nationwide across all industries, women make up 47% of the workforce in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Yet they comprise only 26% of the computer and information technology workforce, according to NCWIT.
3 Reasons Why Women Should Seek IT Careers
1. Computer-related jobs are growing at a fast pace.
Demand for computer and information technology workers is projected to grow 11% through the year 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s faster than the average rate of growth for all jobs in the United States.*
2. Although women comprise only about 20% of programmers, they’re earning nearly equal pay.
If opportunity isn’t enough reason, here’s another reason for women to get excited about careers in computer science and IT: The gender pay gap is nearly nonexistent between men and women in the U.S., according to research from the American Association of University Women.
Across all occupations in the U.S., women earn about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn.
In computer-related fields, it’s 94 cents for every dollar.
3. There aren’t enough skilled workers today to fill computer-related jobs through 2026.
NCWIT predicts that 3.6 million new computer-related jobs will open by 2026, but there won’t be enough graduates with bachelor’s degrees to fill those positions if our universities continue at the current rate.
Resources for Girls and Women Seeking Careers in CS and IT
Computer Science and Information Technology Resources for Girls
GirlsRiseNet is a partnership among several STEM-related organizations, museums, and science centers in the United States. The purpose is to build a network among these organizations, share resources, and encourage girls to explore opportunities in STEM subjects.
Girls Who Code is a nonprofit founded in 2012 with a mission to “change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.” It sponsors clubs, campus-based programs, summer immersion, and other programs primarily for elementary, middle, and high school girls, but about 16% of the girls served are in college or older.
Project CS Girls is a nonprofit that encourages middle school girls to pursue computer science and technology careers. It holds an annual national competition, technology workshops throughout the country, and offers opportunities to start local chapters.
Tech Girls is an initiative from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It’s a weeklong technology camp for girls in the U.S., Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa to encourage them to pursue careers in science and technology.
Technovation is an annual challenge that matches girls with mentors in STEM-related careers. Groups of girls are invited to identify problems in their communities and innovate to solve them. It has resources to find local clubs all over the world, as well as resources to start a club of your own.
Tech Trek is a one-week summer camp in several locations throughout the U.S. where girls learn about STEM careers. It is sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
If you’re interested in learning about the historical accomplishments of women in IT, “History of Women in IT: 6 Female Pioneers in Computer Science” is an article by Purdue Global that profiles achievements in computer science and information technology by Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and four other women.
Computer Science and Information Technology Resources for Women
American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a nonprofit organization that promotes equity in education for girls and women in all fields, not just STEM-related fields. It offers leadership training, research on gender equity issues, local and campus initiatives, and a wealth of information for women.
AnitaB.org is a nonprofit organization named for Anita Borg, a pioneer for women in computer science. Anita founded the Institute for Women and Technology in 1994, which has since been renamed AnitaB.org. The website provides a wealth of information about events, meetups, awards, scholarships, and other resources for women in technology.
Association for Women in Computing (AWC) is a professional organization for women in computer science and technology. It’s been around since 1978 and offers professional networking, mentoring, and continuing education.
Association for Women in Science (AWIS) describes itself as a global network for women in STEM. AWIS is a think tank, leadership development, and advocacy group. Its career network includes postings for several hundred STEM-related jobs.
IEEE Computer Society offers online resources for women in computing, such as conferences, publications, a digital research library, and local chapters for networking.
MentorNet is a nonprofit that matches mentors in STEM careers with student “mentees.” It has matched more than 33,000 pairs since 1997, and 81% of them are women or members of a minority group. They offer corporate programs, college and university programs, and professional programs.
National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) is a nonprofit that represents more than 1,100 universities, companies, nonprofits, and governmental organizations. It provides free resources for these organizations to raise awareness and reach out to critical populations of women and minorities.
Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was founded in 1950. It’s a nonprofit membership organization with 300 collegiate and 100 professional member chapters. Members join a network of local and national engineers, attend national and regional conferences, and have access to SWE’s webinars, podcasts, website, and print materials.
Further Explore a Career in Information Technology
If you are thinking of pursuing or advancing a career in information technology, a college degree may help.† Purdue Global offers several online degree programs in information technology. Explore our IT degree programs.
Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.