Many young women want to work in IT. This has been shown by a recent survey carried out by Linköping University, Insight Intelligence, Microsoft, CGI, and Bredband2. The researchers surveyed 1,000 women aged between 16 and 30 years in Sweden, and found that 38% are attracted to a career in IT.
Those who are positive to the idea consider the IT profession to be challenging and interesting, while offering good career prospects and a high salary.
Mikael Asplund is senior lecturer in the Department of Computer and Information Science. He leads a project in the Faculty of Science and Engineering intended to increase the number of women taking computer science at Linköping University.
“This investigation shows that many women would like to work in IT, although the fraction of women who apply to our programmes in computer science is too low, around 10-15%”, says Mikael Asplund.
Cyber security and e-commerce
One of the aims of the investigation was to improve understanding of the ideas and attitudes that young women have about computers and IT. One of the conclusions is that many young women find topics such as cyber security and e-commerce interesting.
“We’ve been striving for a long time to increase the number of women who apply for our programmes in computer science. It’s useful to know what we should emphasise when marketing them. At the moment, we talk a lot about autonomous vehicles and robots. Of course they’re interesting, but maybe we should also give some other fields space.”
Mikael Asplund describes how Linköping University is working hard to ensure that everyone feels welcome on the computer science courses.
“We will not allow any preconceived ideas about what men and women are good at.”
He points out that the Master’s programme in engineering with a specialisation in information science now includes a course on diversity and gender.
“It’s very popular: the students gave it a rating of 4.7, where 5 is the maximum, in the most recent course evaluation.”
The main reason given by those who are not interested in a career in IT is that such jobs don’t fit their personality.
“The choice of education and career defines one’s identity. You create an image to present to the world, saying who you are. We found that the image of the computer and IT field is somewhat unflattering. People see a geek sitting in front of a computer screen writing programs all day long, out of contact with other people. This is a widespread idea, and we are always working to erase it.”
What would you say are the greatest misconceptions about professions in IT and computer science?
“The idea that such work is antisocial. That working with IT means sitting in front of a computer screen all day long. This is not the case. Everyone nowadays works in teams. This is a social and extrovert profession. You work with others to solve problems.”
Why should people apply to your programmes in computer science?
“Because the computing and IT professions open enormous opportunities to make a difference in so many industries. Digitalisation means that IT is present in all areas of society. Working with IT and computers is one way to get involved and influence society.”
Translated by George Farrants