Career Paths for Women in Technology: Big Data, Security and Mobile

Women in Tech

Women who want to work in tech, listen up: The industry needs you, and it’s never been a more opportune time to pursue a career in IT. More than half (59 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed for the latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report said it is somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today.

To build the technology workforce they need to succeed — and create a more diverse corporate culture — many companies are making a concerted effort to recruit more women. Tech giants like eBay, LinkedIn, Google and Microsoft, for example, have all reported recent gains in the percentage of women working in tech and leadership roles in their organizations. And Apple is ramping up its outreach efforts to junior high, high school and college women

Smaller businesses are making big strides, too. Consider software developer, ThoughtWorks. One strategy it uses to maintain a diverse workforce is to try to always include at least one female interviewer in the hiring process. The company is also open to hiring developers who don’t have computer science degrees (which fewer women are pursuing today, compared to males); instead, the “whole picture” of a candidate is considered.

Challenge = opportunity

While more doors are opening for women in technology, the gender gap in the sector is still significant. (By some accounts, it’s widening due to lingering stereotypes and biases.) But don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing a career in IT: In fact, the lack of women in the profession is one of the big reasons you should consider this path. A challenge and an opportunity are quite often the same thing.

To help inspire you, we will be sharing perspectives in upcoming posts from women who are working in three of the hottest areas in technology right now: big data, security and mobile. These women will share their stories of why they wanted to work in tech, how they got started, how they overcame any barriers to success, and what they do in their current roles.

We chose to focus on big data, security and mobile not only because they are the three biggest drivers for IT hiring this year, according to the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, but also because there are some interesting dynamics around these professions that women, in particular, should be paying attention to:

  • Big data: Businesses are in need of professionals who can retrieve, interpret, analyze and report on data. And according to Current Population Survey data, the number of people working in statistics grew from 28,000 to 72,000 from 2010 to 2013 — interestingly, about 38 percent are women. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that employment of statisticians is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Security: According to the 2013 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study (available for download here), women represent just 11 percent of the information security workforce. Meanwhile, the information security industry is growing at a rapid pace and employers can’t even find enough skilled candidates to fill roles already open. The good news: Initiatives like the Cool Careers in Cybersecurity for Girls program are working hard to show girls and young women why working in cybersecurity can be a rewarding career track.
  • Mobile: Without question, mobile application developers are in high demand, so there is plenty of room for talented professionals to make their mark in this field. While there is a significant “gender balance problem” in software development, generally, according to the 2015 Developer Survey by Stack Overflow, there are signs more women are joining the industry. The same survey found that women who code are nearly twice as likely to have less than two years of programming experience, compared to men. Could it be that the white-hot mobile app development market (both consumer and enterprise) is helping to spur this trend? Watch this space.

In the coming months, we look forward to sharing profiles of women who are making their mark in these specialized and growing fields in IT. Until then, here’s an assignment we hope will help you start making plans for a career in technology.

Your new assignment

If you’ve been following our series about women in technology, you know we are providing readers with optional “assignments” that are intended to motivate them to think about how they, as individuals, can help to grow women’s influence in the tech sector.

Here’s a quick review of the first two assignments, along with this month’s assignment:

Assignment 1

Join a professional network or membership association that actively promotes the advancement of women in the technology profession.

If you are still looking for an organization to join, consider Women in Technology International (WITI). Robert Half Technology is a corporate member of WITI, and several Robert Half employees are members of the organization.

Assignment 2

Add at least two people to your professional network who you believe can provide valuable insights as you launch or work to advance your career in technology.

This month’s assignment

Ask someone in your organization — a colleague who is already working in technology or a human resources manager, for example — to explain what types of skills (technical and soft skills) and certifications you would need to be considered for a tech role you aspire to, and how you can gain the training necessary to make the transition.

Are you looking to launch a big data, security or mobile tech career? Share your strategies for breaking into the IT field and finding a job in one of these hot areas.