Contribution to Book
Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology
Many western nations have experienced declining numbers of women in the information technology (IT) workforce (Trauth, Nielsen, & von Hellens, 2003). Between 1996 and 2002, women in the U.S. IT workforce declined from 41% to 34.9% (ITAA, 2003). This can hamper diversity and reduce the talent pool that can address needs of diverse end-users (Florida & Gates, 2002). Why do women choose IT careers or reject them? Multidisciplinary research on career genderization reveals gender imbalance (Trauth, Nielsen, & von Hellens, 2003). Career decisions against math, science, and technology (MST) are often made as early as age 11 without understanding long-term implications (AAUW, 2000). We examine influences on girls’ choice of IT careers, modeling social, structural, and personal variables that affect IT career choice. Using Ahuja’s (2002) classification of social and structural influences on women’s IT careers, Beise, Myers, VanBrackle, and Chevli-Saroq’s (2003) model of women’s career decisions, and individual differences suggested by Trauth (2002), we extend literature to children and adolescents’ career choices. Social influences bias internal and external gender perceptions and stereotyping, role models, peers, media, and family. Institutional support such as teachers and counselors, access to technology, and same-sex versus coeducational schools are structural influences. While both can influence career decisions, social factors have the most influence on children’s early perceptions. Both factors can introduce gender-stereotyping effects on career choices. Gender stereotyping explains how girls perceive their role in society based on subtle societal cues. It can limit opportunities for both sexes. We also examine personality traits and external influences that make children unique. Their individual differences draw them to activities and content areas such as problem solving and interaction with people. Finally, ethnic culture can exert an influence on social and structural variables. Figure 1 from Adya and Kaiser (2005) presents our career choice model that is discussed in the next section.