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Nuffic Neso Turkey's “Women in Turkey’s Digital Sector” Study

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Alumni in Turkey

Thematic news

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03.16.2020

A Sector Abandoned by its Pioneers: Information Technologies 

Since the Countess of Lovelace, Ada King wrote the first algorithm for ‘Analytical Engine’ 200 years, and since Sister Mary Kenneth Keller earned the title of ‘first woman to acquire a PhD degree in computer sciences’ 55 years have passed. 

In the meanwhile, the progress in information and communication technologies (ICT) has covered such a long distance that one could measure it in light years, but how are women who laid the foundations of these technologies positioned in the sector today?

How many aspiring female ICT specialists are inspired by Janie Tsao who started a half a billion-Dollar worth company at her garage, by Grace Hopper who was the inventor of the first ever programming language, by Sheryl Sandberg who is the first female board member of Facebook, or by Margaret Hamilton who wrote a 145,000-line code which allowed Apollo 11 to land on the Moon?

As the Netherlands Education Support Office in Turkey, for this year’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to commemorate the women who pioneered the digital sector and honor the women who are still advancing it. Accordingly, with the help of ICT specialist Tolga Mırmırık, we conducted an online questionnaire with female ICT specialists in order to acquire insights regarding the sector, particularly to raise awareness regarding the sectoral problems on the way to help improve conditions for female ICT employees and to encourage aspiring female ICT specialists. You may find the results of the questionnaire and insights from the participants in the following text.

                                                                                                            

Women in ICT Sector by the Numbers

In the beginning of the history of computer technologies, hardware development was seen as a man’s work as it was believed to be the ‘hard work’ and the ‘soft work’ which was the software development was mostly women’s responsibility since women were ‘as good at software as men’ and would perform the same job voluntarily or for lower fees. Hence, women had taken over the field and had become pioneers of the modern-day software1,2

Women had always been actively participating in the development of computational methodologies and computer science, however in the second half of the 20th century, their influence had started to decline and by the 90’s ICT had already become a male-dominant sector. If in 1984, the ratio of the female computer science graduates had peaked to 37%,  how did the only male-targeted marketing of commercial computers and video games and female-unfriendly working environments affected the gender ratios in ICT sector in the following period?2 

Within the scope of ‘Shaping Europe’s Digital Future’ projects, European Comission conducted a study called “Women in Digital” (2019)3 which revealed striking results: 

  • Female to male ratio of the people who received a tertiary education degree related to ICT is 1:4.
  • The share of men working in the digital sector is 3:1 greater than the share of women.
  • Only 2,4% of the women graduate from an ICT related tertiary study and 0,6% continue their career in the digital sector (2018).
  • Only 17% of ICT specialists are women. The same ratio for STEM graduates is 34%.
  • Women in ICT sector earn 19% less than men.
  • The annual productivity loss for the European economy of women leaving their digital jobs to become inactive is calculated to be about EUR 16.2 billion.


In 2018, Deloitte Turkey and TÜBİSAD (Informatics Industry Association) conducted a study called “Women in the Technology Sector” with the participation of 486 women who worked in corporate positions, 54% of whom were 26 to 35 years old. Results of the study strongly implies that the sector is not preferred by women and the women who take part in the technology sector have to struggle with the Glass Ceiling Syndrome in order to acquire an executive position1:


  • 54% of the participants were married and 40% were parents, among them 44% were specialists and only 15% were young executives and 6% had a C-level position.
  • Of the participants, 20% worked in Marketing/Sales and Business Development, 19% worked in IT, and 13% worked in R&D and Product Development.
  • 34% were Engineering graduates, 30% were from Administrative Sciences and 12% were IT graduates.
  • Only 30% of the participants stated that there were special programs conducted by their companies in order to hire more women. 


“Women in Turkey’s Digital Sector” Study of the Netherlands Education Support Office in Turkey

As the Netherlands Education Support Office in Turkey, we hereby present the results of the online questionnaire which we conducted with the help of ICT specialist Tolga Mırmırık in order to gather insights regarding the experiences of ICT employee women in Turkey with hopes of raising awareness in the sector and becoming a part of the much-needed solution:

(Answers should be rated according to ‘1: I strongly disagree’, ‘3: I am not sure’, and ‘5: I strongly agree’.)

  • There were 64 participants in total, of whom 30% had 0 – 3 years, 37% had 4 – 7 years, and 33% had 8+ years of sectoral experience.


1) Answers for ‘I was/am being subjected to negative discrimination based on my gender in the company I worked for’ item: 


2) Answers for ‘There is a negative prejudice towards women in the sector’ item:

3) Answers for ‘I was subjected to positive discrimination based on my gender in the company I worked for’ item:

4) Answers for ‘Long-term ICT employees and high-level executives are aware of the sectoral negative discrimination towards women’ item:

5) Answers for ‘Short-term ICT employees are aware of the sectoral negative discrimination towards women’ item:


The answers show an inclination towards women being subjected to negative prejudices. Additionally, it is clearly seen that both the executives and long-term employees and people who recently joined the sector are considered to be unaware of the negative discrimination towards women in the digital sector. 

It is possible to summarize the difficulties faced by the questionnaire participants under 4 main categories: 

  • As women are believed to be more social and emotional, they are not considered to be suitable for ICT sector.
  • Since ICT is a male-dominant field, it is believed that women would be unsuccessful in the sector. 
  • It is thought that women would spend less time for their work when they become mothers.
  • It is thought that women are insufficient in experience, knowledge and competence; hence it is normal that they are paid less.


Solution suggestions from women who work in ICT

  •  Hiring/Appointments should be made according to competence
  •  Balancing the male to female ratio/Increasing the number of female executives
  • Improving gender mainstreaming education
  • Acquiring in-house transparency
  • Encouraging women and supporting their education
  • Providing flexible working hours and supporting mothers


Results

The results from the questionnaire of the Netherlands Education Support Office in Turkey which was conducted with the help of ICT specialist Tolga Mırmırık in order to acquire insights regarding the women who work in Turkey’s digital sector are in accordance with European Commission’s 2018 and 2019 “Women in Digital” studies, as well as with the results from Deloitte Turkey’s and TÜBİSAD’s “Women in the Technology Sector” study. 

The achieved outcome from the participants’ sectoral insights is that the reason behind the gender gap is women avoiding the technological and engineering fields due to assigned gender roles which results in women being the minority in the sector, regardless of their competence. This produces a snowball effect which strengthens the prejudices against women and constitutes an important obstacle in front of providing women-friendly work environments. 

As the Netherlands Education Support Office in Turkey, we invite the ICT employees to support and understand their female colleagues and ask our educational stakeholders to encourage aspiring female ICT specialists who will take part in shaping the sector’s future. 


Bibliography

1.        Siyahhan A, Aslantaş M. Teknoloji Sektöründe Kadın. Deloitte Türkiye - TÜBİSAD. https://www.kagider.org/docs/default-source/diger-raporlar/teknoloji-sektöründe-kadın.pdf?sfvrsn=2. Published 2018. Accessed March 6, 2020.

2.        Women in computing - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_computing. Accessed March 6, 2020.

3.        Women in Digital | Shaping Europe’s digital future. https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/women-ict. Accessed March 6, 2020.

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