Women in ICT – a Possible Estonian Nokia?
Skype Estonia together with the Faculty of Economics of the University of Tartu explored women’s role and potential in Estonia’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
The reason behind the study stems from the fact that the ICT sector is continuously lacking highly skilled specialists, and when looking at the current structure of ICT workforce, only around 22% of employees in the Estonian information technology industry are female. As previous studies point out, possibly the most underused and underestimated segment of specialists are females (Jürgenson et al. 2013). Considering the rapid growth of Estonian ICT sector, the question is how long ICT companies in Estonia can afford to leave out a signifiant part of potential ICT specialists just because of some wide-spread myths and associated fears?
The study took a multi-perspective view on the matter: nearly 300 high school students and ca. 100 ICT students were surveyed to gain an insight into their beliefs, motivation, and choices; besides that, 18 in-depth interviews with 18 female students, employees, and leaders in the ICT sector were conducted. The aim of the study was to fid out why there are disproportionally less females pursuing a career in ICT.
The results revealed that even in the 21st century females are highly inflenced by cultural beliefs and gender-specific stereotypes. To be more specifi, it was possible to bring out six wide-spread myths that keep ICT out of the girls’ career choice:
- ICT is for long-haired boys;
- ICT people are anti-social and geeky;
- ICT work equals programming or fiing computers;
- ICT is only for those who are strong in mathematics and hold a diploma in ICT;
- There are boys’ filds and girls’ filds;
- Women have to be “helped” into ICT.