Career Development of Women in Information Technology

By Kaminski, Jennifer A. Muryn; Reilly, Anne H. | SAM Advanced Management Journal, Autumn 2004 | Go to article overview
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Career Development of Women in Information Technology

Kaminski, Jennifer A. Muryn, Reilly, Anne H., SAM Advanced Management Journal

Progress in science and technology is critical to the ability of U.S. organizations to stay competitive in a global marketplace, as well to continuous improvements in the standard of living American workers expect. In today's world of e-commerce and instant communication, companies depend on technological and computer expertise at all employment levels. Therefore, jobs in information technology and related fields have increased dramatically in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue well into the future.

The Information Technology Job Sector and Its Importance

The Information Technology Association of American (ITAA) estimates the U.S. information technology (IT) workforce in the range of 3.6 million workers (Messmer, 2003), and IT employment is projected to be among the fastest growing, according to Hecker (1999). Database administrators, computer support specialists, and all other computer scientists are projected to increase 118%; computer engineers, 109%; systems analysts, 103%; and computer programmers, 23%. (Abundant Career Opportunities Projected in Information Technology 1998). Kurtz (2003) notes that eight of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. occupations from 2000 to 2010 were in information technology. Additionally, employment in industries peripheral to high-tech but generated by purchases of high-technology industries has also increased substantially (Hecker, 1999).

Substantial evidence documents the importance to organizational effectiveness of skilled and motivated IT workers. In a survey of information technology executives, conducted by the ITAA and published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, "50% cited a lack of skilled/trained workers as 'the most significant barrier' to their companies growth during the next year." (America's New Deficit: The shortage of Information Technology Workers, 1997). This was viewed as a greater problem than economic conditions, profitability and lack of capital investment, taxes or regulation. An additional 20% of the IT executives reported that the shortage was a barrier to their companies' immediate growth. Further, an international survey of approximately 1,500 chief information officers conducted by Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, cited in the same article, noted that IT managers throughout the world were experiencing a difficult combination of unprecedented demand for IT workers and high turnover rates, reported to be as high as 45%. In addition, this 1997 U.S. Department of Commerce report discussed the alarming possibility that the nation's ability to develop innovative products would be inhibited due to a shortage of IT workers, resulting in both a reduction of U.S. competitiveness as well as a constraint on economic growth. Just to be able to staff their organizations, IT hiring managers will be required to pay close attention to the career development issues facing their employees.

Career Issues in Information Technology

Defining "information technology" is subjective because it involves different types of industries and firms. The U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment defines "high technology" firms as those engaged in designing, developing, and introducing new products and processes (Hecker, 1999). According to the Department of Labor, the IT industry includes all scientists, engineers, and technicians who create and apply new technologies regardless of their industry. Other occupations within IT include engineers, scientists, mathematical and computer specialists, technicians, managers of these positions, as well as those involved in delivering products or services within technology. The complexity and variety of skill sets required within IT contributes to career issues that are unique to employees in this industry. For purposes of this study, we use the following broad definition of information technology: "a term that covers all forms of technology used to create, store, transmit, interpret, and manipulate information in its various formats" (www.

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