ICT gender gap harming US competitiveness

Danielle Kucera
22 Sep 2011

The lack of women in technology will hinder US companies’ global competitiveness, leaving a valuable source of female workers untapped, Cisco executive Kathy Hill said last week at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco.

Companies should overhaul policies starting at the training level to ensure a balance between the sexes, Hill said at the APEC meeting, which was attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. APEC represents 21 economies that account for more than 55% of global gross domestic product.

“Technology has to play a role,” said Hill, a senior vice president of development strategy and operations at San Jose, California-based Cisco, the world’s largest maker of networking equipment. “Technology makes a lot more money than other businesses, and we’ve got job growth.”

While women hold about half the jobs in the broader US economy, they account for less than 25% of science, technology, engineering and math positions, according to the US Department of Commerce.

“We need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economy in the decades to come, and that vital source of growth is women,” Clinton said yesterday at the conference. “By increasing women’s part in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic effect to the competitiveness and growth of our economies.”

The disparity begins in college. More than 31,000 men graduated with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences, outnumbering women by more than fourfold, according to a 2008-2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics. Males who graduated with technological engineering degrees during that period dwarfed female counterparts by almost ninefold, the study found.

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