IT and technology

TARGETjobs survey: female graduates in the IT industry

TARGETjobs IT questioned 154 female graduates working in the tech sector about their careers. Here's what they said - and their advice to current students.
Several respondents drew attention to the lack of women in senior roles at their companies.

‘Go for it’ is the overwhelming message from women in IT to female graduates considering careers in the sector. That’s according to a survey by TARGETjobs IT, which asked 154 women who had recently graduated and were employed in technology jobs about their experiences of working in this male-dominated sector. However, they also had words of advice and caution for those starting their IT careers.

When asked ‘What general advice would you give to a female undergraduate who is thinking about working in IT after graduation?’, a popular response was that they should ‘just go for it.’ Comments included:

  • ‘Go for it! It is a fast-paced, fun and constantly changing industry which keeps you on your toes, with great rewards!’
  • ‘If this is the job you really want to do, just do it. There is no reason why you shouldn’t apply for a job in IT.’
  • ‘Ignore the male to female ratio and go for the job you think you will enjoy.’

Choose a female-friendly employer

However, a number stressed the importance of researching individual employers and ensuring that a ‘female friendly’ one is selected. Comments included:

  • ‘Look for companies that have a strong female community, and perhaps have been recognised for it (Best companies for women to work in, etc).’
  • Talk to some females in that company already to see how they like it.’
  • ‘Choose a company with strong values that has initiatives to encourage women in IT.’
  • ‘If you have a choice of a company with a higher proportion of female co-workers, take that job. Investigate whether a female employee has even been given a management position (regardless of whether you want to go into management) as it is a good measure of how valued you will be. When you start your job keep up your guard – only take a job in this sector if you are prepared to fight your corner long term.’

Challenges for female graduates in the IT workplace

Respondents flagged up a number of issues they faced in their working lives. Some were specific to the challenges of a career in a male-dominated sector, while others also apply to many other industries.

Salary differences between male and female IT graduates

Around 25% of respondents suspected that male colleagues doing the same job would end up earning more than them. Comments included:

  • ‘I am aware that other male graduates starting at the same time as me earn more.’
  • ‘My company gave me a smaller annual pay rise than my male colleagues. When pointed out they put me on the same salary, but I have no doubt that in the future, when it’s harder to compare like for like, it will happen again.’
  • ‘The pay scale is not publicised in our company above junior consultants (new grad joiners) so it’s difficult to determine. However I’m very much aware there is still a significant difference in pay between men and women in the city.’

Some respondents felt that men could be better at negotiating salaries, and that this might be a factor. Comments included:

  • ‘Ambitious males may negotiate a higher salary than me. But that’s not to say women can’t…’
  • ‘It is reported that women haggle less for pay rises than men, but if you are aware of your worth, you should be fine.’

Proving your worth

There was also a feeling among some respondents that women in IT sometimes need to ‘prove themselves’ more than their male colleagues, and that there was a danger of being underestimated. Comments included:

  • ‘Sometimes you can be underestimated with regards to technical knowledge.’
  • ‘Some colleagues and clients tend to assume that being a young female in the workplace I’m there to do a PA type job, and therefore can feel like there’s a greater need to prove yourself than male colleagues. But overall this is not too great/prevalent a problem.’
  • ‘It can be very very hard to get men to take you seriously and give you the respect you deserve. There are a number of men that are threatened by bright ambitious young women and the way they show this can be seen as disrespectful which can be frustrating.’

Long term career progression for female technologists

Other concerns will have resonance outside the IT industry. While 66% of respondents felt that being a woman would not hold back their career long term, 34% thought that it would.

Several respondents drew attention to the lack of women in senior roles at their companies, wondering whether this would impact upon their own careers:

  • ‘There aren’t many senior women in IT so less precedence to promote me to management.’

A number commented that if they had children, this might hold back their career development. In particular, some mentioned that their current roles necessitated a lot of travel or long hours, which might not be compatible with family life:

  • ‘I don’t think I can commit to being away from home if I have children. However this is a personal view, not because I will not be able to dedicate the hours.’

The benefits women bring to tech companies

Many respondents were keen to highlight the benefits that women can bring to IT roles. 56% agreed that women brought different or additional skills to technical jobs:

  • ‘Female graduates have different skills to males. They tend to be more organised so good at jobs involving planning on top of development work they do. They also tend to check their work more carefully than males which can often mean fewer mistakes.’

Skills they identified included:

  • greater attention to detail
  • a logical approach
  • multi-tasking skills
  • strong ‘soft’ skills
  • a different way of looking at things.

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