A Virginia Tech team of researchers has identified five factors that influence girls’ informational technology (IT) career choices, including the fact that these women tend to be minorities, including African-Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians and multiracial Americans.
Backed with more than $882,000 in funding by the National Science Foundation, the statewide project “Women in Information Technology: Pivotal Transitions from School to Careers” evaluates the impact of family, peers, school, and community on girls’ perceptions of IT careers.
The other four characteristics that women showed for a computer-related career are:
- The women perceive that their parents support this career choice, with the mother being particularly influential;
- Women use computers at an early age, for a variety of communication and information purposes, and, unlike their male peers, typically not for computer games;
- These women have a positive view of IT professionals and tend not to think of a computer-related career as only for “nerds” or “geeks;” and
- The last quality these women share is that they have not discussed career options with a variety of people. In fact, those who sought more information were least likely to choose IT careers.
The results are a culmination of four years of research by three scholars in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences: Carol Burger, director of the Science and Gender Equity Program; Elizabeth Creamer, associate professor in the School of Education; and Peggy S. Meszaros, director of the Center for Information Technology Impacts on Children, Youth and Families.
Using a Path Analysis Model, the researchers determined these influencing factors after conducting telephone interviews and three rounds of surveys with 1,026 girls and women across the state of Virginia at rural and urban high schools, and a variety of community colleges and universities.
“The results of this study will provide educators, policy makers and administrators with a major dissemination product,” said Meszaros. “Up until now, there have been no career resources for women that have considered the simultaneous impact of numerous factors on career interest in IT.”
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