"Cracks in the glass ceiling" is an overused phrase, but it's apt when you look at the position of women in IT. Equal pay for equal work is a reality in the industry, and women -- at least a few of them -- helm high-profile companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Yahoo.
That's the good news. On the other side of that equation is a lot of evidence that IT is still a man's world, and that "leaning in," as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously advocates, is not an option for most women in the industry.
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Both high-level and rank-and-file IT staffers are still much more likely to be male, and that probably won't change any time soon. Women comprise only about 17 percent of students working for a computer science degree in the United States, although they represent more than half of the overall university population, according to statistics compiled by the National Science Foundation in 2010.
What's more, women who work in IT are less likely to hold the highest-paying positions. "What we have is a position gap, not a pay gap," says Tom Silver, senior vice president of Dice, a large job board for tech workers. In a survey of Dice users that garnered 15,000 responses, the company calculates that "average salaries are equal for male and female tech pros, provided we're comparing equal levels of experience and education and parallel job titles."
But there's an overall $8,400-a-year gap between male and female workers in IT, with men averaging $95,929 a year versus $87,527 for women, Dice found. Worse, that gap appears to be widening: Average salaries for male IT workers increased by about $5,000 from 2011 to 2012, while the salaries of female IT workers rose by just $2,000, according to Dice.
"Pay equity is a good step; I'm really glad to hear that," says Nancy Lamberton, president of Women in Technology. "But women are still underrepresented in tech, and there's something in the culture that makes it difficult for them to step up into leadership positions."
Male from top to bottom
Lamberton, who worked in high-level tech-related positions at Lucent, SAP, and other companies for more than two decades, says it still all too common for a woman to walk into an IT staff meeting and realize she's the only female in the room. The statistics bear her out.
A 2012 survey by the U.S arm of British tech recruitment group Harvey Nash found that just 9 percent of U.S. CIOs are female, down from 11 percent in 2011 last year and 12 percent in 2010. About 30 percent of those polled said their IT organization has no women at all in management, yet only about half of survey respondents considered women to be underrepresented in the IT department.