Women in Computing Say Access to Career Info Should Start in Grade School

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 6 March, 2012 – Accessibility to computers and technical career information in grade school and exposure to female role models would likely attract more women to technical fields, according to respondents to a recent IEEE survey.
The 2011 Women in Computing survey was conducted to assess how IEEE can better serve women in engineering. Two thousand female IEEE Computer Society members and 2,000 female IEEE members were invited to take the survey. The more than 1,100 respondents were more concerned about work/life issues than by female underrepresentation in the field. Respondents were also more focused on the engineering careers and futures of other women than on themselves.
A majority of the respondents (58.1 percent) said they chose a technical career to fulfill a personal goal, while 55 percent said they were motivated by curiosity or knowledge growth. Over one-third (39 percent) indicated that the ability to earn a good living was a goal.
About one in 10 said peers and associates introduced them to a technical career, while about 8 percent said they transitioned from a previous career field. Of those who were led to embrace a technical career by someone else, 37.8 percent indicated it was a relative, 16.8 percent said it was a mentor, and about 7 percent each said it was a colleague or friend.
"There were many respondents who contacted the team about this survey. The overwhelming majority had comments expressing appreciation for reaching out to the IEEE members to understand their views on Women in Engineering via this groundbreaking survey," said Pamela Jones, the Computer Society's representative to IEEE Women in Engineering and an at-large member of the Computer Society Technical and Conference Activities Board.
"One thing that was clear is that we all strive to be excellent engineers, regardless of gender," added Jones, who is also a lead software engineer at Northrop Grumman Corp. "We can assist women in achieving their goals by listening to what they want – technical and non-technical information in their area of specialty by way of different mediums –for instance YouTube postings, the IEEE Global History Network, e-books, blogs, and technical material. By starting the dialogue, we can better address the challenges that we are facing with attracting more people in to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)."
The majority of survey respondents said they had support at an early age, in the form of encouragement to pursue math, science, or technology. Respondents 30 and younger were much more likely to have this form of support than those 51 and older. Considerably fewer respondents indicated having the support of a female role model.
Participants said accessibility to computers and information on technical fields starting in grade school would likely attract more women to technical fields, as well as publicity showing women in technical fields and more female role models.
More than half of respondents were from the US; 22.9 percent were from Europe/Africa/Middle East, 12.4 percent were from the Asia/Pacific region, 5.1 percent from Canada, and 4 percent from Latin America. The average age of respondents was 45.5. Nearly 43 percent worked in academia, while almost one-third worked in private industry.
IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists. The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines globally. For more information, visit http://www.ieee.org/membership_services/membership/women/index.html.

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