The U.S. tech economy faces a critical shortage of talent and continues to fail to draw women to the ranks.
Nearly a half million new computing jobs were created in 2015, but only 40,000 new computer science graduates entered the workforce, according to Accenture, the global professional services company. Women may account for 47 percent of the workforce, but they hold only 24 percent of the U.S. computing jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Dramatically increasing the number of women in computing is critical to closing the computer science skills gap facing every business in today’s digital economy,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s group chief executive for North America, with the release of the study “Cracking the Gender Code.” The Accenture study and report is a collaboration with Girls Who Code, a national non-profit working to close the gender gap in technology
The report identified three ways to bring more women in the tech workforce:
Spark interest in junior high: Teachers and parents should show girls that computing can be fun and a means to fulfill their aspirations. It’s not just a career track for boys. One recommended way to boost girls’ hands-on computing experience is to create computer games designed specifically for girls.
Sustain engagement in high school: Four out of five high school girls who went to a summer computing camp with girlfriends were interested in studying it at college, compared to just half of the girls who only studied computing at school. Girls Who Code currently runs summer immersion programs in a dozen cities across the country and hopes to expand.
Highlight post-collegiate opportunities for liberal arts majors: More than half the women currently working in computing did not major in computer science in college. All undergraduates, not just computing/tech majors, should be encouraged to explore on-campus and summer immersion programs in computing or coding.
Not only do schools and industry need to encourage more women to consider tech careers, companies must address the pay disparity between men and women. According to the tech recruitment platform Hired, women in the tech industry are offered starting salaries that are 8 percent lower than salaries offered to men. Women working in tech sales were offered roles with a median salary of 5 percent less than male colleagues, while the gap for software engineering roles was 9 percent.
For the study, Accenture and Girls Who Code interviewed 4,000 girls aged 12-18, 650 male and female undergraduates, young workers, 2,200 parents and 250 teachers to determine what young women think about computing jobs, what stands in the way of their participation and what schools and businesses can do to encourage women to pursue technology careers.
Hired analyzed more than 10,000 job offers made to approximately 3,000 candidates in the tech industry in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia.