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Equalizing Access to Information Technologies - Lessons and Experience from a Study of Gender Disparities

Presenters: Nancy Taggart and Chloe O'Gara, Academy for Educational Development
Sponsored by: The Gender and Development Thematic Group and the Girls' Education Thematic Group, World Bank


 O'Gara and Taggart shared their experiences and initial findings from a study on women's access to technology and participation in technology training in developing countries. AED's research is ongoing and is supported by Cisco Systems. Participation by gender was assessed in 10 developing countries in order to develop a strategy for improving the gender balance in enrollment and retention in Cisco training academies (Cisco Networking Academy).

Through a series of surveys, e-mails, and telephone conversations the following themes emerged: training programs are often located within departments in universities and colleges having low female enrollment, such as engineering; few recruitment activities target women; low-income women are being reached, but many of the trainees are middle to upper class women; and there is a small pool of women interested in IT from the outset, which results in fewer women seeking IT training.

Gender in IT Today


Using these findings O'Gara and Taggart made recommendations for increasing women's participation in and access to these training programs. Some of these recommendations included:
  • Offer training and testing in a structured, culturally-acceptable environment

  • Offer training programs in other departments, in addition to engineering, that may have a higher percentage of female enrollment, such as information technology departments

  • Develop recruitment materials that appeal to prospective female students and that depict women in action-oriented, interactive roles in the IT workplace

  • Create support groups for women in these training programs to serve as professional networks

  • Partner with women's organizations and NGOs who have experience in outreach to rural and poor women and knowledge of socio-cultural and economic considerations needed to adapt programs to attract women

  • Offer scholarships or reduced fees to female students and incentives to female instructors

    The presenters acknowledged the need for research to be extended beyond education to see what is happening in the workforce once women graduate from the Cisco training program. O'Gara emphasized the need to identify gender disparities at an early stage in IT development using statistics that show a large wage gap already exists in the US between men and women ($1.00/$0.67) in the IT field.

This was the first seminar in the "Gender and the Digital Divide Series" being sponsored by the Gender and Development Thematic Group and the Girls Education Thematic Group.

Updated:  6/2/04

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