Trends in Women’s Participation in Computer Industry Subfields
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Part of the Databases and Information Systems Commons, and the Women's Studies Commons Maalouf, Tristyn "Trends in Women's Participation in Computer Industry Subfields," Th e Kabod 5. 2 (2019) Article 3.
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Maalouf: Trends in Women?s Participation in Computer Industry Subfields
Running Head: WOMEN?S PARTICIPATION IN COMPUTER INDUSTRY SUBFIELDS
The participation of women in specific subfields of computer science (CS) and information
technology (IT) will be investigated to determine the existence of any trends that may exist
indicating special interest amongst women. Specifically, the subfield of database administration
will be considered to determine if women tend to enter this subfield more frequently than other
subfields. Research will also acknowledge statistics regarding male participation in database
administration and other relevant subfields to determine if any trends in women?s participation
are unique to women or if they exist across the board. Conclusions will be drawn based on the
data and any topics for further research gleaned from the results of this investigation will be
This research project was brought about by the comments and insights of several industry
professionals in the fields of CS and IT who have noticed certain trends in the participation of
women in CS subfields but have not had their insights confirmed or denied by statistical
research. The trend that has been informally communicated by such professionals is that many
women who work in the fields of CS and IT pursue careers in the subfield of database
administration as opposed to other fields such as networking, research, and software
development. These insights, formerly the result of personal experience, can be tested using data
gathered from verified sources, which will be the purpose and subject of this report.
Scope and Hypothesis
It is important to first clarify the research question and its scope, as there are many
similar questions in the field of computer science that can be easily confused with the subject at
hand. Specifically, this report will investigate and analyze the participation of women in the CS
subfield of database administration as compared to women?s participation in other subfields.
While much research exists and is underway comparing the participation of men versus women
in CS as a whole as well as in certain subfields, this report seeks only to determine the most
frequently pursued subfield of CS by women as compared to other women and will only consider
male participation in order to determine if the results of this investigation are unique to women
or if they apply to all individuals in CS and IT. Additionally, the scope of this investigation is
constrained to trends within the United States, which has been determined by the data sets
The hypothesis of this investigation is that research will indicate a higher female
participation in the field of database administration than other subfields and that this trend will
not hold for men, making it unique to the female subset of CS industry professionals. If
confirmed, this report will not seek to provide an absolute cause for the existence of this trend,
but several ideas will be discussed.
EMSI Data Analysis
Due to the scope of this investigation being limited to the United States, the most
concrete and revealing statistics can be found in U.S. Department of Labor Statistics records.
Using the help of EMSI, a private-sector data analytics company that uses U.S. government labor
market data to derive useful and current conclusions based on multiple U.S. databases, research
as early as 2013 indicates the validity of the hypothesis in question (?About our data?, n.d.). In
an EMSI report published in 2013, which only included standard-wage and salaried employees,
not the self-employed or extended proprietors, a comparison of women?s participation in 14
subfields of CS and IT showed that database administration ranked first, where 39% of the
subfield of database administration is made up of women (Wright, 2013). Figure 1 displays the
breakdown of the 14 major categories of CS and IT that were included in this report.
The structure of this report also provides insight on the comparison of men?s
participation. Since these figures represent the percentage of women?s participation in each of
these fields, the difference between each percentage and 100% indicates male participation in
each subfield. Thus, it is safe to conclude that the trend of female interest in database
administration does not carry over for men in the CS and IT industries. On the contrary, due to
the high rates of female participation in this subfield, it ranks relatively lower on the male
and IT. Reprinted from economicmodeling.com, 2013, Retrieved November 4, 2018, from
Further confirmation of this trend can be found by analyzing the corresponding 2018 data
to see if the trend continued over a five-year span. As shown in figure 2, database administration
still ranks in first position for women at 38%, followed by computer systems analysts at 35% and
web developers at 31.5% (Wright, ?IT?). The one percent difference between 2013 and 2018
may be negligible, or may indicate a change in the trend that is currently underway. While
further data in the next 5-10 years will show where the trend is headed, it can currently be said
that database administration is still the most pursued subfield of CS and IT by women based on
IT. Adapted from Joshua Wright. Unpublished raw data.
One notable change between 2013 and 2018 is that web developers rose 5 positions and
changed a total of 2.5 percent. While the percentage change seems small, further data from Data
USA indicates that this may be a field that will compete with database administration for the top
spot in future years, as discussed below.
Data USA Data Analysis
Data USA, another private-sector data analytics company, confirms the EMSI results
with specific male-female comparisons for each subfield, with the one possible exception of the
web development subfield (?About?, n.d.). Combining Census Bureau data with U.S.
Department of Labor statistics as well as considering the 25% overall participation rate of
women in the fields of CS and IT as a whole, the relative significance of the following results
can be weighed (?Computer?, 2016). When comparing database administration to software
development, two subfields that show drastically different participation based on the EMSI
report, Data USA confirms the results with 2016 data reporting a 60-40 male-female split in
database administration compared to an 80-20 male-female split in software development
(?Database Administrators?, 2016). Figure 3 displays the wide gap in female participation
between these subfields.
administrators & Software Developers, 2016, Retrieved November 18, 2018, from
The 2016 Data USA results are consistent across the 14 subfields with one notable
exception, which may indicate either changing trends or a difference in the data sets used by
EMSI and Data USA. Where EMSI data reports that only 29% of the web development subfield
positions were occupied by women in 2013 and 31.5% in 2018, Data USA reports that 38% of
this subfield?s positions were occupied by women in 2016, showing significantly higher levels of
female participation, as displayed in Figure 4 (?Database administrators?, 2016).
present in the field of database as it is inherently more technical and is not implemented as
simply and independently from other systems as web development tends to be.
One final possibility is that Data USA included self-employed individuals and extended
proprietors in their report, which could affect results since as many as 1 in 6 web developers
operate in a self-employed fashion according to Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting (?Web
Developers?, 2018). However, the inclusion of self-employed web developers was not indicated
by Data USA. Thus, it is unclear whether the EMSI or Data USA results are more accurate due
to the lack of clarity in the Data USA results. Nonetheless, due to current statistics on the number
of web developers operating as self-employed, it can be assumed that the EMSI results include a
lower percentage of female participation in web development than is accurate, which implies that
web development participation rates amongst women in CS and IT may be comparable to those
of database administration.
Several conclusions can be drawn from the research results, first and foremost being that
the hypothesis is confirmed, with the caveat of a possibly similar participation rate for females in
web development. Nonetheless, database administration can be considered one of the highest
pursued CS subfields amongst women and this trend can be considered unique to women when
compared against men. Thus, it is no longer a matter of personal experience by industry
professionals but rather a statistical fact that women in CS and IT do tend to pursue careers in
database more frequently than in most other subfields.
A second conclusion of this research is that women typically pursue IT-related fields
compared to CS-related fields, as displayed in the EMSI data. While there is some overlap
between IT and CS in fields such as networking and database administration depending on the
specific job description of the employee, women show less interest in CS positions like software
development and programming that revolve around coding and steer more towards IT positions
that involve soft skills such as management and systems support roles.
Topics for Further Research
Two main topics for further research are produced from this research. First, the obvious
questions of why and how these results came to be must be explored. While research exists for
the consideration of gender gaps in the subfields of other industries, similar research should be
conducted for the subfields of CS and IT. There are many benefits of such research, namely more
targeted advertising for universities and institutions attempting to encourage women to enter CS
and IT careers. By knowing that women tend towards certain subfields of CS and IT and why
that is, such institutions can be more intentional in recruiting women into their programs and
waste less time advertising career paths that women tend not to be interested in. More awareness
of these trends will also help educators and advisors provide more effective and applicable
guidance to young women who may be suited to CS and IT careers.
The second topic of further research follows from the first and considers the specific
recruitment strategies currently in place to attract young women to CS and IT careers within the
broader context of current female recruitment into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
(STEM). While there are events, clubs, and organizations that exist for the purpose of exposing
young women to STEM through specific CS and IT applications, research should be done to
figure out how educators and leaders of such organizations can incorporate more database
applications into such programs. For example, while many user-friendly drag-and-drop coding
applications exist to demonstrate to kids the basics of programming, such as Scratch, a simplified
coding language produced by MIT for elementary and middle schoolers, comparable applications
do not currently exist with database applications (?Scratch?, n.d.). While it is unclear now how
database concepts might be presented to youth in an understandable and enjoyable way, research
should be done to this end so that the existing CS and IT recruitment programs can expose more
content to young women and girls than what is currently available, most of which is geared
towards the subjects that least interest women in CS and IT.
About our Data. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://www.economicmodeling.com/data/
Computer, engineering, & science occupations. (2016). Retrieved November 18, 2018, from
Database administrators & Software Developers. (2016). Retrieved November 18, 2018, from
Database administrators & Web developers. (2016). Retrieved November 11, 2018, from
Wright, J. (2018, November 27). [IT Occupations Male Female Breakdown 2018]. Unpublished raw
Wright, J. (2013, October 30). The Percentage of Women That Occupy Computer and IT Fields.
About. (n.d. ). Retrieved November 23 , 2018 , from https://datausa.io/about/ Summary. ( 2018 , April 13). Retrieved November 23 , 2018 , from