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IT's Gender Gap

Center launches online library to give young women access to information that could spur their interest in tech careers

Men outnumber women in IT by a ratio of 4-to-1, a figure that has been rising for several years. There are 18.5% fewer women in tech jobs today than eight years ago, according the Information Technology Association of America, a trade group that represents technology companies.

To help rally more women into tech jobs, Cisco Systems and the National Center for Women & Information Technology this month launched an online digital library to give teachers, parents, and students access to information that could spark girls' interest in IT careers.

The site has information about technology groups and activities, such as camps and clubs, as well as tips for educators on how to mentor young women and encourage them to enter tech-related fields.

Women are faster than men to reject a career in technology, Lucy Sanders says.

Women are faster than men to reject a career in technology, Lucy Sanders says.

The library is part of larger effort by the National Center for Women & Information Technology to build alliances with educators, nonprofit groups, and companies to bring about changes that ultimately will get women in IT "on parity with men" within 20 years, says Lucy Sanders, CEO of the center.

Over the last two years, the center has received $5.6 million from the National Science Foundation to develop programs to attract women into tech professions. Among research under way is a study of why women leave IT. There are several common reasons why fewer men and women are entering the tech fields, including the perception of it as being "geeky" and concerns about offshoring, Sanders says. However, she suspects that women are apt to decide earlier to reject a tech career because of those and other reasons. When it comes to concerns about juggling family and work, tech fields are more attractive than many other professions, she says. "IT lends itself to balance" because of the opportunity to telecommute, when possible.

The goal of the National Center for Women & Information Technology is to make itself obsolete. "In 30 years, we hope not to be around," because by then, the percentage of women in IT will have grown significantly, Sanders says.

Another group promoting women in IT, the Anita Borg Institute For Women And Technology, last month honored several women in its first Women of Vision awards. Winners included Radia Perlman, senior distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, who was selected in the category for innovation; Pamela Samuelson, professor of law and information management at the University of California, Berkeley, who won in the social-impact category; and Janie Tsao, senior VP of worldwide sales, marketing, and business development for the Linksys division of Cisco, who was awarded the honor in the leadership category.

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