The long working hours and the discriminatory environment of the technology industry scare women away, despite the fact that the EU has an estimated employment growth of 8% until 2025 in the sector. A study by Catalan universities proposes measures to achieve greater equality of opportunities. According to the specialists, a cultural change in companies is necessary, with new rules for time management and counseling programs.
According to the data from the Labour Force Survey (in Spanish, EPA or Encuesta de Población Activa) women account for 23.8% of IT jobs in Spain. An investigation by the Open University of Catalonia and the University of Barcelona analyzes the reasons why women are underrepresented in this sector. Among them stands out a highly masculinized environment, with long hours that does not facilitate conciliation.
Ana González Ramos, researcher in sociology at the Open University of Catalonia and the study's main author, explains to Sinc that there are great opportunities in this economic sector: "The EU estimates that there will be an 8% employment growth until 2025 in the technology industry and world forecasts also point in the same direction, so it is very important to address a change in trend that incorporates more women prepared with sufficient skills to design and produce technological innovations".
In her opinion, "these skills will not have to come from pure and hard technological careers, but could come from very diverse fields of knowledge, from biology and health to the arts or philosophy, but with a base related to IT".
Trend to overqualification
The author emphasizes that the current labor climate in this industry "makes it difficult for women to combine their professional and personal aspirations. The long and intense work-days, the total availability and the extra-work dedication are some of the factors considered as more negative".
The women who finally decide on a technological career and get a job in the sector "find themselves in a complex world, organized in a way that is alien to their interests, and based on informal male practices inside and outside the work environment. All this leads to situations of isolation that, on occasion, lead to overqualification of women as the only way to seek recognition in the established male dominated groups", adds González Ramos.
The study has found that age is also a reason for discrimination added to the gender. The data from the Labour Force Survey indicate that women under 24 and over 46 are the most difficult to find jobs in IT companies.
On the other hand, companies in this sector have shown the need for universities to be more flexible when it comes to preparing students optimally to adapt to the changing technology sector. "However," says Gonzalez Ramos, "very few companies take into account the benefits of the diversity of work teams."
Promotion of female technological vocations
Regarding measures to change the situation, the expert mentions, among others, "the promotion of women's technological vocations through counseling programs and giving visibility to women in positions of responsibility in the industry." She also believes that it is necessary "to change the image of technology university careers, showing not only its gray image, but its usefulness in fields such as health, safety, design and art."
But, above all, "it is necessary for companies to create more equal employment conditions, especially in terms of the wage gap and the opportunities for progress, and better time management to attract female talent," she concludes.
The article, published in Revista Española de Investigación Sociológica, has been elaborated within the GENTALENT project, which seeks to promote the talent of women in the occupational sector of technologies and which has been funded by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) and Obra Social "la Caixa".
Ana M. González Ramos, Núria Vergés Bosch and José Saturnino Martínez García "Women in the Technology Labour Market". Revista Española de Investigación Sociológica (2017).