Title IX and IT DiversityBy Edward Cone | Posted Tuesday, July 15, 2008 09:07 AM
One of the root causes of the gender imbalance in IT -- a major workplace diversity issue -- is understood to be the relatively low interest in certain sciences by female students.
Now the federal government is getting involved, applying Title IX -- the same law that requires colleges to provide equal opportunities for female athletes -- to science programs. The move is not uncontroversial, and the reasons women are underrepresented in engineering and physicas programs are complex, as the NYT's John Tierney writes in the Title IX article and this blog post.
Yet the cultural impediments to involvement by women seem real. As we reported in the article on IT workplace diversity linked above, A study done by the Center for Work-Life Policy reports that the fields of science, engineering and technology are "hostile to women in general," says Karen Sumberg, a staffer at the organization and co-author of a Harvard Business Review report called "The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering and Technology." Sixty-three percent of women surveyed by the group said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment while working in those three areas.
Title IX may be part of a solution, if it can be used to root out egregious examples of gender bias and inequality in the sciences, but it seems unlikely to mitigate problems with gender diversity on its own.