By Mary Nersessian
Insufficient numbers of women are graduating from information technology programs in Canada. According to the Canadian Information Processing Society, less than 25 per cent of all IT graduates are women.
To educate the new batch of female students entering post-secondary education, CIPS is holding an event called “Women in IT: From Cyberspace to Outerspace” at Ryerson on March 8 — International Women’s Day. Ryerson offers a four-year or five-year cooperative Bachelor’s of Commerce in Information Technology Management.
Five hundred female high school students from the Toronto public and Catholic school boards are expected to attend this year’s event which will include speakers, interactive sessions and lunch.
“Out ultimate goal is to change the perception that IT careers mean sitting at the computer all day long,” says Mylene Sayo, CIPS manager of public relations, “When really, you can be interacting with various kinds of people, from human resources to the CEO — we want to open the eyes of the girls.”
“One of the reasons why I entered Information Technology is because I wanted to prove that women could it do it too,” says first year ITM student Shogher Mnknjian, “Society generally assumes that we can’t.”
In her first year classes, Mnknjian estimates that the number of women and men are evenly split. However, even within the program there are cynics.
“Once, one of my male classmates said that he expects half of the girls in this program to drop out,” says Mnknjian.
To help encourage young women to pursue a career in IT, CIPS will give them the chance to hear female IT professionals speak, and to partake in workshops such as Fashion and IT or Rocket Transport at Ryerson. Although the activities have not been confirmed yet, the coordinators are looking to highlight the flexibility with which IT graduates can work.
“For example, they might see first-hand how fashion designers use software,” says Sayo.
Mnknjian explains that females and males bring different attributes to information technology and problem solving.
“For guys, it’s the easiest, fastest and cut-and-dry way, and women tend to take more time and attempt different methods of problem solving.”
According to the Software Human Resources Council, employers have reported that 12 per cent of their positions are empty and that they would create 14 per cent more jobs if qualified candidates were available.
“We see girls’ future involvement as one part of the solution to the IT skills gam in Canada,” says Karen Lopez, CIPS director and spokesperson.