3 Myths About Women in IT Debunked

Our expert dispels three prevalent misconceptions about women in STEM.

Written by Maria Julia Yanzi
Published on Mar. 26, 2024
3 Myths About Women in IT Debunked
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
Brand Studio Logo

Did you know Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, was the world’s first computer programmer? Or have you heard of Grace Hopper, the U.S. Navy rear admiral and originator of the theory of programming languages

Historically, the information technology industry has been male dominated, fostering many misconceptions, myths and stereotypes about women in the field. Fortunately, in recent years, significant efforts have been made to enhance women’s involvement in IT companies, from promoting university education to diversifying recruitment pipelines.

This doesn’t mean, however, that everything always runs smoothly or that women even have the same opportunities as men. Regardless of the diversity and inclusion initiatives, several enduring myths shape perceptions of women working in the IT industry. In this article, I will debunk the three most common misconceptions I have encountered throughout my career.

3 Myths and 3 Truths About Women in IT

  1. Myth: Women can’t have a family and a career. Truth: Many women successfully achieve work-life balance. That said, we must continue to work for equal responsibility in the home for all genders.
  2. Myth: Women just aren’t interested in STEM. Truth: Women have historically been — and continue to be — pioneers in IT and STEM.
  3. Myth: Women don’t have the technical skills to make it in IT. Truth: The number of women studying STEM has been steadily increasing since 2010, but many women leave the STEM field within one year of graduating.

An intersectional perspectiveAddressing the Challenges Facing Black Women in Tech

 

Myth 1: Women Can’t Balance Family and Careers

Contrary to the idea that women’s true purpose is to stay home with kids, research by Catalyst reveals that companies with more women in leadership roles experience higher financial returns, with a 34 percent higher total return to shareholders.

Many women successfully navigate both professional and personal spheres. And caregiving responsibilities are not exclusive to women; men can play significant roles in caregiving and household duties. Data demonstrates, however, that women continue to do the bulk of household work — despite working the same number of hours as men.

This is why, according to YouGov’s Workforce Insights study, women prioritize job flexibility more than men do. Most women (57 percent) emphasize the significance of flexible working hours in a job, whereas only 44 percent of men express the same sentiment, indicating a notable 13 percent difference.

That means support from the workplace plays a crucial role for women: flexible work-time arrangements, remote work options and family-friendly policies help women balance work and family despite the existing imbalance in caregiving roles. Therefore, shifting societal norms and promoting gender equality in household duties contributes to a more equitable distribution of responsibilities, allowing both men and women to pursue fulfilling careers while managing familial obligations.

 

Myth 2: Women Aren’t Interested in IT 

One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that women lack interest in pursuing careers in IT. The truth is quite different. Women have been pioneers in advancing computing since the beginning. There are numerous examples of women significantly contributing to the field. Here are just four of them.

 

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852)

The world’s first computer programmer, Ada, daughter of Lord Byron, was a mathematician and writer known for her work on the analytical engine. There’s even an international Ada Lovelace Day on October 10th dedicated to celebrating the achievements and contributions of women in STEM.

 

Cecilia Berdichevsky (1925–2010)

The deputy director of the Savings Bank of Argentina, Cecilia escaped from the pogroms in East Europe and settled in Argentina. She became the leading programmer of the first computer in Argentina and the International Federation for Information Processing representative.

 

Evelyn Berezin (1925–2018)

The creator of one of the earliest ticket reservation systems and the text processor, Evelyn developed text processors of the size of a small fridge called Data Secretary — a prototype of the engine still used in all editors nowadays. 

 

Grace Brewster Hopper (1906–1992)

The theory of programming languages originator and United States Navy rear admiral, Grace was among the first creators of the Harvard Mark I computer. She originated the theory of programming languages and is renowned for creating the FLOW-MATIC programming language.

  

Myth 3: Women Lack the Technical Skills for IT

The common myth that women lack technical skills greatly diminishes women’s contributions to the field. In reality, code has no gender, as evidenced by statistics. 

Research by the National Center for Women and Information Technology found that the number of women earning computer information systems bachelor’s degrees have increased steadily since 2010. Every year, more women earn associates, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral computing degrees. But at all levels, a persistent gender gap remains.

According to the World Economic Forum, while the percentage of women STEM graduates entering into STEM employment is increasing with every cohort, the retention of women in STEM, even one year after graduating, sees a significant drop. Additionally, women make up only 27 percent of the tech workforce. Of the 27 percent that join the technology industry, more than 50 percent are likely to quit before the age of 35, and 56 percent are likely to quit by mid-career.

These findings challenge stereotypes and underscore the importance of recognizing and valuing women’s technical abilities in IT. The gender gap persists due to cultural stereotypes, bias in the workplace and limited visibility to opportunities.

Nuances of being a woman in the workplaceHow to Be the Ultimate Girl’s Girl at the Office

 

The Fight to Keep Women in Tech Continues

Despite impressive examples throughout history of women playing key roles in tech and research showing how women successfully balance work and family duties, false ideas about women in IT persist.

To debunk the myths and deconstruct stereotypes, we must take decisive steps toward encouraging young girls to explore STEM fields and inspire them through real-life success stories. We should also promote gender equality in caregiving and household duties and advocate for flexible work conditions.  

Our aim is to highlight the real contributions and potential of women in the IT sector. The network comprising both women and men promoting the IT field for people of all genders can play a crucial role in sharing best practices and building stronger bonds between professionals.  

Hiring Now
SOPHiA GENETICS
Artificial Intelligence • Big Data • Healthtech • Software • Biotech
SHARE