Do shifting skill sets favor women?
Multiple nonprofits have sprung up, many sponsored by tech corporations, to expose high school girls to programming, app development and more. The list includes The Technovation Challenge sponsored by nonprofit Iridescent, DigiGirlz classes from Microsoft, and Girls Who Code, backed by Google, eBay, General Electric and Twitter. The hope is that these efforts will result in more women studying science, technology, engineering and math -- the so-called STEM fields -- in college and graduate school.
In the meantime, there are indications that the shifting nature of high-tech employment may be working in favor of women.
As Denzel, who first made her mark in storage and later in the burgeoning field of big data, notes wryly, "The closer you are to the processor, the more male-dominated this already male-dominated field becomes."
In contrast, the industry shift away from nuts and bolts and toward hybrid skill sets -- including higher-level analytics, process and project management, and user-centric social and mobile computing -- could open up opportunities for women to move laterally into tech departments from other specialties.
A look at the supply chain for IT professionals -- high schools, colleges, universities and graduate schools -- suggests that the gap between top-placed female IT professionals and those coming up the ranks isn't likely to close anytime soon.
That's according to an analysis of educational data from various sources by The National Center for Women & Information Technology. Among other things, the group found that, in 2011, a majority (56%) of the students who took Advanced Placement tests were female, as were 46% of those who took the AP calculus test, but women accounted for just 19% of those who took the AP computer science exam.
Those ratios hold true in college: 57% of students earning an undergraduate degree in 2010 were women, but women made up only 18% of those majoring in computer and information sciences. That's not a one-year blip: The NCWIT found that there was a 79% drop in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science between 2000 and 2011.