E-stonia is running short of IT specialists, the demand for them is skyrocketing, and no miracle solution seems to come to anyone’s mind, except maybe for girl power. Women make up half of Estonia’s labour force, but only every fifth employee in the country’s information technology industry is female. How to develop this hugely needed potential and start closing the gender gap?
To get some feasible answers and directions, Skype Estonia teamed up with the University of Tartu’s Faculty of Economics to explore women’s role and potential in Estonia’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Researchers Eneli Kindsiko, Kulno Türk, and Mark Kantšukov surveyed ca. 300 high school students and ca. 100 IT students to gain an insight into their beliefs, motivation, and choices. In addition, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 18 female students, employees, and leaders in the ICT sector.
So what is keeping Estonian girls and women from choosing studies and careers in IT? To no one’s surprise, our choices are guided by cultural beliefs and gender-specific stereotypes. The researchers identified six wide-spread myths that keep IT out of the girls’ lists of dream careers:
IT is for long-haired geeks
‘A guy with a ponytail’ (in Estonian: ‘patsiga poiss‘) is still a strong stereotype of an IT person in Estonia. If ten years ago it could have been almost true, those times are long gone. Even if you happen to be that kind of introverted anti-social guy who spends all of his lonely time in a dark corner behind a computer, that’s a sure disadvantage.
Current ICT students and employees point out that social skills and openness, perhaps more typically associated with being a woman, are highly valued and sought for in these jobs. Continue reading