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If Girls Don't Get IT, IT Won't Get Girls

By Kathleen Melymuka
January 8, 2001 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A recent survey of high school students showed the top choices for both college major and career path are computer science and engineering - for boys, that is. But technology barely shows up on girls' radar screens. Girls are five times less likely to consider technology-related studies in college or tech-related careers. They're still bent on traditional female occupations such as teaching and health services.
These were among the troubling findings of a study commissioned by the Arthur Andersen GROW (Growth and Retention of Women) Project, which interviewed 500 girls and 150 boys ages 15 to 18 about their views on careers and success.
The students were overwhelmingly - and apparently equally - computer literate, with 85% of girls and 87% of boys taking computer courses this school year, and nearly everyone using the Internet.
But while girls said they understood the importance of computers to their future employment, they were anticipating careers in health services, teaching, art or music, not IT.
A look at the "whys" behind these findings shows that both corporate America and the technology community have been doing a lousy public relations job. As a result, girls think that what they're looking for in life and work can't be found in corporate IT.
For example, they said career success was about being personally happy and rewarded (28%), having the respect of family and friends (17%) and having a happy family life (13%). Only 5% mentioned having money.
"Success is not calculated by how many numbers are on your paycheck, but if you are satisfied with your job," said a girl in Chicago.
Their perceptions of life in corporate IT, however, seem to have been shaped by the comic strip Dilbert. "Corporate America is about money," said a New York girl. According to the survey results, girls equate moneygrubbing with corporate America and happiness with small business and public service.
"Given the fact that we're in the tightest labor market in 30 years, that's disturbing," says Karen Kurek, managing partner of Andersen's GROW initiative.
Ironically, these girls sound like they're just the labor pool corporate IT needs most. The girls consider themselves leaders, so listen to their ideas on leadership: They were significantly less likely than boys to equate leadership with aggression, competition and winning. Instead, they defined good leaders as those who work well with others, have good morals, understand people's needs and help others to be their best. Sounds to me like perfect characteristics for IT teams and project managers.
"These girls need to get more education about what careers in IT and business are



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