Why don’t more women code?
By Hanna Pawelec (Hanna.PAWELEC@oecd.org) and Molly Lesher (Molly.LESHER@oecd.org), Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (OECD)
For more insights visit the OECD’s Gender Equality Data Portal
Significantly more men than women become ICT specialists, and this gap persists across countries. Differences in young men and women’s education in science, technology, engineering (including ICT fields), and mathematics (STEM); aspirations for jobs in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector; and ICT skills are well demonstrated. New data from the OECD Going Digital Toolkit confirms that these gender gaps persist later in life. Across OECD countries, the percentage of men working as ICT specialists 1 is three to eight times higher than the percentage of women working in such positions (Figure 1).
Economies with the highest share of ICT specialists in the total workforce, such as Israel, Sweden and Finland, have among the highest proportion of female ICT specialists. However, even these countries show a persistent and significant gap: 3% to 4% of women occupy those positions compared to 11% of men. Overall, women represent between 9% (the Czech Republic) and 24% (Israel) of ICT specialists in countries for which data is available.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and accelerated the need for ICT skills across all sectors of the economy, and the growing number of jobs in the ICT sector could increase employment opportunities for women. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of ICT specialists in the EU increased by nearly 3 million.
However, only one in five of the newly created jobs are occupied by women. Over the past decade, the overall share of women working in ICT specialist jobs has increased by only 1 percentage point. Progress is too slow, and the prospects for change are unlikely given that by the age of 15 less than 1% of girls on average across the OECD aspire to become ICT professionals, compared to almost 8% of boys.
OECD countries have been successful in removing barriers to connectivity for women, and they can also empower women and girls by providing opportunities to accumulate the mix of skills needed to thrive in a digital world. In the early years, curriculums must overcome gender biases and stereotypes regarding math and science. In the middle years, girls and young women should be actively encouraged to undertake STEM studies. And in later years, women should have equal access to retraining and reskilling services. ICT specialists are shaping the future with new technologies. Integrating more women and other underrepresented groups in ICT development will bring to bear the diverse perspectives that are needed to create a more inclusive digital future.
More data and further reading
- OECD Gender Equality Data Portal
- OECD Going Digital Toolkit
- OECD (2019), Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Future, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264311992-en.
- ICT specialists correspond to International Standard Classification of Occupations 2008 (ISC-08): Information and communications technology service managers (133), Electrotechnology engineers (215), Software and applications developers and analysts (251), Database and network professionals (252), Information and communications technology operations and user support (351), Telecommunications and broadcasting technicians (352) and Electronics and telecommunications installers and repairers (742). The occupations are identified using factor analysis of the frequency of ICT tasks in different occupations based on data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills, see: Grundke, R. and S. Jamet, M. Kalamova, F. Keslair, M. Squicciarini (2017), “Skills and global value chains: A characterisation”, OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers, No. 2017/05, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/cdb5de9b-en. This survey is representative of the population aged between 16 and 65 years in participating countries, see: https://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.↩