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Women in Computing: Historical Roles, the Perpetual Glass Ceiling, and Current Opportunities

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129946D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 13 page(s) / 49K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

AMITA GOYAL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Over the course of history, the demographics of the workforce have changed drastically. Women have slowly emerged as able participants in the workforce and have even progressed to hold influential roles and positions. Women have accounted for 60% of the total labor force growth between 1982 and 1992, experiencing their highest labor force participation rate of 57.8% in 1992. At this time, of the 100 million women 16 years and older in the United States, 58 million are active in the labor force [26]. Women are projected to account for nearly three-fifths of the labor force entrants between 1990 and 2005, comprising 47% of the labor force by the year 2005 [26]. Approximately half (44%) of the current female participation in the labor force, however, is characterized by low-paying clerical and administrative positions [26]. Representation of women in high-paying management- level positions is still scarce. Nevertheless, in spite of their low numbers and positions when compared to men in the workplace, women have begun to carve a significant niche and establish a potent presence in the workplace. Whereas the workforce in all disciplines has been enriched with the presence of women workers, the computer technology industry in particular has held many promises for women for equity between the genders in professional access, opportunity, and eventually salary. Many women prefer to enter computing rather than other disciplines because computing is a relatively young field and, therefore, has had less time and opportunity to develop strong and hardened stereotypes and discrimination than other disciplines. Surveys confirm that sexual barriers are far fewer in the computer field than in other industries [22]. Additionally, computing is probably the most open of all professions because of its focus on technical skills, which are gender-blind. Since most women in information systems (IS) are typically college-educated [5], they can compete technically with their male counterparts. In order to achieve true gender equality, however, many more women must be recruited into the high-tech workforce and be provided ample opportunities to strive to their full potential and demonstrate their individual abilities. Fortunately, many corporate and user organizations as well as institutions of higher education have instituted special programs to specifically encourage and abet women both in technology and other disciplines [14]. While the journey to gender equality in the workplace is a long and arduous one, some women have made such significant contributions that they have become pioneers in technology and now serve as role models for the new breed of women entering the industry. Although these pioneering women are ambitious and want to capitalize on opportunities for advancement, they are few in numbers. Most women are only mildly optimistic that their career will ever include the executive level of management. A recent survey of IS professionals revealed that women make up only 18% of the IS workforce and that only seven out of 100 of the nation's top IS executives are women [5]. The low number of women in industry, when compared with the number of men, is still a cause for concern, and an arbitrary gap in the salaries between the genders still exists. Therefore, upon hitting the ";glass ceiling,"; most women resign themselves to a career of inequality and settle for lesser positions and salaries or leave the computing technology field entirely.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Women in Computing: Historical Roles, the Perpetual Glass Ceiling, and Current Opportunities

AMITA GOYAL

Over the course of history, women have slowly begun to hold influential roles in the computing industry. Although progress has been made, the precipitous journey is not yet complete. This paper presents a historical analysis of the entrance and role of women in the computing industry, a discussion on the existence and impact of the glass ceiling, and a detailed and informative collection of programs and opportunities established to abet women in succeeding in the industry. The information compiled in this work will prove useful not only to the women already employed in the industry but also to women contemplating entrance.

Introduction

Over the course of history, the demographics of the workforce have changed drastically. Women have slowly emerged as able participants in the workforce and have even progressed to hold influential roles and positions. Women have accounted for 60% of the total labor force growth between 1982 and 1992, experiencing their highest labor force participation rate of
57.8% in 1992. At this time, of the 100 million women 16 years and older in the United States, 58 million are active in the labor force [26]. Women are projected to account for nearly three- fifths of the labor force entrants between 1990 and 2005, comprising 47% of the labor force by the year 2005 [26]. Approximately half (44%) of the current female participation in the labor force, however, is characterized by low-paying clerical and administrative positions [26]. Representation of women in high-paying management- level positions is still scarce. Nevertheless, in spite of their low numbers and positions when compared to men in the workplace, women have begun to carve a significant niche and establish a potent presence in the workplace.

Whereas the workforce in all disciplines has been enriched with the presence of women workers, the computer technology industry in particular has held many promises for women for equity between the genders in professional access, opportunity, and eventually salary. Many women prefer to enter computing rather than other disciplines because computing is a relatively young field and, therefore, has had less time and opportunity to develop strong and hardened stereotypes and discrimination than other disciplines. Surveys confirm that sexual barriers are far fewer in the computer field than in other industries [22]. Additionally, computing is probably the most open of all professions because of its focus on technical skills, which are gender-blind. Since most women in information systems (IS) are typically college-educated [5], they can compete technically with their male counterparts.

In order to achieve true gender equality,...