A Guide for Women to Break Into Information Technology

The tech industry is one of the fastest-growing industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations in computer and information technology (IT) is projected to grow 12% in the next decade — much faster than all other occupations. Additionally, the average wage for IT and computing jobs was $88,240, according to 2019 BLS data. While the tech industry can provide fulfilling careers and abundant paychecks, research has shown that IT and computing jobs are dominated by males.

 

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) reports that while 57% of the workforce is made up of women, only 26% hold computing jobs. The NCWIT states that the participation percentage has been declining since 1991 when it reached a high of 36%. Additionally, 56% of women leave their careers at a mid-level point, making the quit-rate for females two times higher than men’s.

 

Despite this imbalance, many resources and career opportunities have been created to encourage women in the STEM fields. Many companies have seen the benefits of diversity in the workplace, and the tech industry is no different:

  • Diverse teams develop more creative solutions;
  • Diversity creates a bigger talent pool for employers;
  • Diversity brings different experiences together to create innovation;
  • And diversity can lead to a better work culture.

 

Now, more than ever, organizations, non-profits, and companies are creating resources for women to have successful careers in tech. This guide details career options, benefits, education and training resources, and networking opportunities to advance in the computer and IT field.

 

Challenges of Being A Woman in Tech

 

As stated before, women are underrepresented in the tech industry. This is due to unconscious or conscious gender bias, a lack of educational opportunities and confidence, and discrimination in the workplace. While these issues may seem overwhelming, there are resources and solutions available to fight the stigma.

 

Gender Bias

 

Gender bias happens when a person prefers one gender over the other. While this can happen to both men and women, female workers are more often the victim. This type of bias happens when someone attributes certain stereotypes to another person or a group of people. Often this bias can happen without the person realizing, making it hard to overcome.

 

Gender bias has not gone unnoticed. 42% of women experience gender bias at work, while men believe unconscious bias to be the number one barrier women face in the workplace. Additionally, men in the tech industry make 61% more than women, which can reinforce feelings of inadequacy. Paired with the fact that only 5% of women hold leadership positions in the technology sector, women in tech feel like they have no role models to look up to or incentives to stay in the industry.

 

However, companies have created proactive measures to fight gender bias, including:

  • Increasing transparency;
  • Supporting women in more senior roles;
  • Implementing a gender-neutral recruitment process;
  • Reviewing salaries and pay;
  • And providing training on unconscious bias.

 

Education

 

Although many women may have an interest in computer science careers, less than half of computer science students are women. According to statistics from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), 20% of computer science students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2018 were women. Additionally, 21% of computer science students who graduated with a Ph.D. were women.

 

However, even if you didn’t gain an education in the technology space, there are various boot camps, workshops, certification programs, educational courses, and scholarships that can teach you the necessary skills to excel in a tech career. Additionally, because of the high demand for tech jobs, many employers have found it easier to teach on-the-job skills to specialists. For instance, many healthcare companies hire doctors and train them in technology to design electronic health records, since they would have the best perspective and input.

 

Confidence Gap

 

Often, when women are asked to give self-assessment, they give themselves, on average, a lower score than their employer would. Studies have shown women hold themselves back, especially in the workplace, even though they are just as competent as male employees. Also, women tend not to apply for promotion unless they meet 100% of the requirements.

 

Women and companies can help counter the confidence gap by creating networks of like-minded individuals, such as female-oriented organizations and mentorships. These relationships can help women grow more confident in themselves and their industries, as well as the ability to ask for career advice.

 

Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace

 

Unfortunately, many women also report harassment from their male employees and employers. 60% of women face unwanted sexual advances in the tech industry, with 65% of those advances coming from a superior. Furthermore, the same study states that 84% of women have been told they are too aggressive, and one in three women have felt afraid for their personal safety because of work-related instances.

 

Businesses can counteract this behavior by changing policies. By ensuring your sexual harassment policy describes the different forms of harassment and the consequences, employers can help prevent inappropriate and unwanted advances.

 

IT Jobs and Career Options

 

Those looking to enter the IT and tech industry can expect a variety of career options. While most employers require bachelor degrees and experience, some positions might require less education. Additionally, IT careers are proven to provide larger salaries than careers in other industries and relatively high job satisfaction.

 

Data Analyst

 

Data analysts collect large amounts of data and translate it to help businesses make informed decisions. Because every business collects data, there are various positions a data analyst can hold, including:

  • Budget analyst;
  • Market research analyst;
  • Operations research analyst;
  • Logistics analyst;
  • Computer systems analyst;
  • And financial analyst.

 

On average, a data analyst earns $62,435 per year, according to figures from mid-2020. Additionally, according to the BLS, analyst positions are projected to grow an average of 16% in the next decade which is much faster than all other occupations.

 

Cybersecurity

 

Those looking to enter into the cybersecurity field can look at becoming an information security analyst. These analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s networks and systems. To become an information security analyst, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, along with some sort of hands-on experience, like an internship.

 

On a day-to-day basis, most information security analysts:

  • Monitor an organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate violations;
  • Install and use software to protect sensitive information;
  • Prepare reports that document security breaches and damages;
  • Conduct testing to look for vulnerabilities in the systems;
  • Research the latest IT security trends;
  • Develop security standards and best practices for the organization;
  • Recommend security enhancements;

 

Help computer users when they need to install or learn about new security products and procedures.

According to 2019 data from the BLS, information security analysts make an average of $99,730 per year. Additionally, the BLS states that jobs in this industry are projected to grow 32% in the next decade, anticipating a high-demand for information security analysts.

 

IT Support and Maintenance

 

IT support specialists provide help and advice to individual computer users and organizations. Most specialists have full-time work schedules and may work odd hours, as the need to be available 24 hours a day is vital to a successful IT support organization. Therefore, many IT specialists work nights or weekends. However, with advanced remote IT support software, IT specialists are working from home more often.

 

There are two types of IT support specialists: computer network support specialists and computer user support specialists. Depending on which route you take, employers require either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree.

 

On a day-to-day basis, computer network support specialists:

  • Test and evaluate existing support systems using PC performance monitoring software;
  • Perform regular maintenance on IT networks;
  • Troubleshoot LANs, WANs, and internet systems.

 

Computer user support specialists, on the other hand:

  • Discuss problems with customers;
  • Walk customers through the recommended solution steps;
  • Set up or repair computer equipment;
  • Train users to work with new computer systems.

 

According to 2019 data from the BLS, the average salaries for computer network support specialists and computer user support specialists are $63,460 and $52,270, respectively. Additionally, both positions are projected to grow 10% in the next decade, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. This is due to the fact that many organizations continually upgrade their networks and computer equipment to run more efficiently.

 

Web Dev

 

Those looking to flex their creativity in the information technology industry might be interested in becoming a web developer. Web developers design and create websites, and either work for advertising agencies, consulting firms or are self-employed. Educational requirements can differ depending on where web developers work and what type of work they do. However, successful web developers must know programming and graphic design.

 

On a day-to-day basis, most web developers:

  • Meet with clients or management to discuss the design of a website;
  • Create and test website applications;
  • Write code for the website;
  • Collaborate with other team members to determine what information the site will contain;
  • Work with other designers to determine the website’s layout;
  • Integrate graphics, audio, and video into the website;
  • Monitor website traffic.

 

According to 2019 data from the BLS, web developers make an average of $73,760 per year. Additionally, this particular job is projected to grow 13% in the next decade, according to the BLS, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

 

Programming

 

Computer programmers write and test code in order to produce functional computer applications and software programs. Most programmers work in an office, however, with new telecommuting technology, more are able to work from home. While the majority of programmers obtain a bachelor’s degree, many employers hire workers with associate’s degrees. It is common for programmers to specialize in a few programming languages to help bring unique skills to the workplace.

 

On a day-to-day basis, computer programmers:

  • Write programs in a variety of computer languages;
  • Update and enhance existing programs;
  • Test programs for errors and fix faulty lines of computer code;
  • Create and test code in an integrated development environment (IDE);

Use code libraries.

 

According to 2019 data estimates from the BLS, computer programmers earn an average of $86,550 per year. Additionally, this job is projected to decline by 7% in the next decade, according to the BLS. This is due to the fact that computer programming can be done globally, creating a highly competitive market.

 

Engineering

 

Computer engineers have a variety of career opportunities, however, many move on to become computer network architects. A computer network architect designs and builds data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Most architects work 40 hours a week or more and have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field.

 

On a day-to-day basis, computer network architects:

  • Create plans and layouts for data communication networks;
  • Present plans to management;
  • Consider information security when designing;
  • Upgrade hardware and software as needed;
  • Research new networking technologies.

 

According to 2019 data from the BLS, computer network architects earn an average of $112,690 per year. Additionally, this particular field is projected to grow 5% in the next decade, as firms and companies continuously expand their IT networks.

 

Managed Services Provider (MSP)

 

A managed service provider (MSP) is a specialist who is outsourced by a company to perform certain IT services. Generally, MSPs work in an office and can service clients globally, by either remote monitoring management (RMM) or professional services automation (PSA). However, there is an increase in freelance MSPs with the rise of telecommunication technology. MSPs can either replace a company’s entire IT team or they can provide specialized services, making this position highly flexible and crucial to a company’s future. The average salary for an MSP is $95,845.

 

On a day-to-day basis, most MSPs:

  • Manage IT infrastructures and software inventories;
  • Add cybersecurity to IT systems;
  • Offer technical support;
  • Manage user accounts;
  • Offer hardware outsourcing.

 

Tech Training and Education for Women

 

Recently, many organizations were created to help fight the gender gap and provide women with further education geared toward a successful IT career. Many are non-profit organizations, boot camps, or certification programs that provide affordable education to underprivileged applicants.

 

Courses, Workshops, and Bootcamps

 

Below is a list of affordable courses and boot camps to train women in coding and software development. These courses normally last an average of six weeks, making these types of programs convenient yet fast-paced.

 

  • Apprenti: This site helps aspiring tech professionals connect with apprenticeship programs that can help catapult careers. Apprenti is actively recruiting women, people of color, and veterans to help spread diversity throughout the tech industry.
  • Hackbright Academy: This academy is an in-person, software engineer boot camp located in San Francisco. Their mission is to educate and empower women to build successful careers in the tech industry. This boot camp can be taken either full-time (12 weeks) or part-time (26 weeks) and costs $16,895.
  • Ada Developers Academy: This academy is a non-profit, tuition-free coding school that serves underprivileged women and LGBTQIA+ adults. The program combines classroom training and paid internships to teach students how to write code and become software developers.
  • Girl Develop It: This non-profit shares affordable educational materials developed by industry tech leaders. Their goal is to provide women with career-building opportunities by teaching them tech industry basics.
  • Girls Who Code: This nonprofit helps girls between the ages of 13 and 17 learn and understand coding. Through in-person programming courses and after school programs, and claim they are on track to close the gender gap in entry-level tech jobs within the next decade.

 

Certification Programs

 

Certification programs can help IT professionals advance in their careers by learning the necessary skills and best practices. Typically, these programs are shorter compared to regular schooling and are also less expensive. Below are certification programs that focus on advancing women through their careers.

 

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM): This certification educates people in project management methods, which is useful for those looking to obtain IT management positions.
  • Isaca Certifications: This organization helps people in the tech industry further their careers through education, credentials, and networking. When you become a member, you can access white papers, books, and webinars.
  • CompTIA: This certification program will help you develop the skills that many employers are looking for. Depending on which tier you choose, applicants can learn IT fundamentals, operational security best practices, and essential skills needed to troubleshoot any device.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISM): This certification is provided by Isaca and educates IT professionals in information security governance, program development and management, and incident and risk management.
  • Center for Creative Leadership: This organization offers a Women’s Leadership Experience designed to empower and educate women with knowledge and skills to have greater impact and influence in their organizations. This is a three-month program that costs $8,900-$9,100.

 

Organizations Supporting Women in Tech

 

Community organizations can be extremely helpful when trying to break into the industry. Additionally, many of the organizations below provide support, continuing education, mentorship, and job boards to help women pursue their career goals in the tech industry.

 

National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT)

 

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit organization that helps increase the participation of women in the IT industry. They also provide free resources on:

  • Recruitment;
  • Retention;
  • Organizational change;
  • Outreach;
  • Unconscious bias;
  • Mentoring;
  • Advising and counseling;
  • And raising awareness.

 

The NCWIT offers collaborative alliances so groups can connect and advocate inclusion in the tech industry. You can either join this organization online, dial 303-735-6671 or visit their office at:

  • NCWIT
    1909 26th ST, 2nd Floor
    Boulder CO 80302

 

ARA (Attract Retain Advance)

 

Attract Retain Advance (ARA) is a mentorship program that hosts networking events and offers development opportunities for women in tech. Women in the industry come together to talk about trends, issues, and challenges facing female IT professionals. Their site also provides interviews from industry leaders, tips on advancement, and professional experience.

 

To contact the ARA, you can either fill out a contact card at the bottom of their site or email them at info@aramentors.com.

 

Girls in Tech

 

Girls in Tech is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to eliminating the gender gap in the tech industry. There are more than 50 chapters globally that teach digital programs, personal development skills, and host boot camps and events to connect women and young girls with tech jobs. They also offer a job board for members.

 

You can either sign up for their free membership or fill out a contact card on their site.

 

MotherCoders

 

MotherCoders specifically helps women with children gain skills, knowledge, and networking opportunities necessary for a successful tech career. Mothers looking to reenter the job market can learn:

  • Technical skills;
  • Trends and issues affecting the marketplace;
  • And networking tips to uncover the right career.

 

Mothers who would like to join can fill out the online application. For others looking to get involved, MotherCoders has volunteer opportunities for individuals and businesses. You can also email them at info@mothercoders.org with further questions.

 

Women Who Code

 

Women Who Code is an organization with a mission to inspire women in tech careers. By empowering women with the skills, education, networking opportunities, and industry mentorship, they hope to bridge the gender gap in IT jobs. While most applicants are software engineers, they also support women in executive and management roles, data science, design, and consultants.

 

Member benefits include:

  • Coding resources;
  • Leadership opportunities;
  • A global community;
  • Access to the job board;
  • Scholarships and free tickets to conferences;
  • And recognition for professional achievements.

 

You can contact this organization by email or on their Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account.

 

The WIT Network

 

The Women in Tech Network (WIT) encourages women to study STEM and pursue careers in the technology industry. They also provide leadership training for career advancement as well as support for female startup companies. This global network is made up of 80 small communities across 30 countries to help encourage local events and connections.

 

Member benefits include:

  • Monthly webinars;
  • Education programs;
  • Mentorship;
  • And yearly conferences.

 

The WIT Network also offers access to computers and technology for children in Haiti, as well as a junior program for girls ages 14-18 to learn about career options. Women can either sign up for memberships online or fill out a contact card for further information.

 

ChickTech

 

ChickTech was founded to engage women of all ages in the tech industry. They offer continuing education courses for women in IT careers as well as learning opportunities for young students who are interested in studying STEM. Participants in the organization will be privy to:

  • Summer camps;
  • ChickTech High School;
  • Meetup groups for adults;
  • And yearly tech conferences.

 

Those looking to participate can fill out the contact card online, email the organization at info@chicktech.org, dial 971-270-0519, or visit the office at:

  • ChickTech
    921 SW Washington St #316
    Portland, Oregon 97205

 

Networking Groups for Women in Tech

 

Networking is an important aspect of any industry. It allows you to access opportunities that you may not have found on your own. For women in the tech industry, networking could lead you to a new potential employer or provide insight into new positions. Additionally, networking can help you find professional advice and role models. Below is a list of online forums and conferences that focus on connecting women in the tech industry.

 

Online Forums

 

Online forums can be a convenient and affordable alternative to conferences. They can be accessed at any time, and users are able to connect with people around the world for advice, mentorship, and potential employment opportunities.

 

  • Ada’s List: This website connects women leaders in the tech industry from all around the world. They hope to change company structures and unconscious or conscious work bias.
  • Elpha: This website allows women in tech to build personal and professional support networks by posting discussions in a safe, online environment. They also provide a job board and collaborative projects for members.
  • Ladies Get Paid: This site provides women in the workplace with the tools, resources, and community to negotiate for equal pay. Members can participate in education programs, town halls, and meetups that can help advance their careers.

 

Conferences and Events

 

Conferences and events can help introduce you to a number of industry professionals who are also networking. Below are conferences that are geared toward women in the tech industry.

 

  • Grace Hopper Celebration: This event is a series of conferences meant to bring women in the tech industry together, and is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. The conference is organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery.
  • Women in Tech Festival: This festival is held in Silicon Valley and celebrates women in STEM, business, and leadership. The festival lasts two days and provides inspiring talks, startup pitches, educational workshops, and mentorship.
  • Women in Tech Summit (WITS): This six-day conference provides discussion topics, educational workshops, and networking connections. All profits from this conference are donated to TechGirlz, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring middle school girls to explore opportunities in the tech industry.

 

Although the tech industry is experiencing a gender gap, by using the resources in this guide, women who are interested in tech careers can have successful and meaningful careers in one of the fastest-growing industries.