Empowering Azerbaijani Women in IT: Progress and Prospects
Globally, the gap between the number of women and men working in the fastest-growing and highest-paid fields of the future, such as computer science and engineering, is stark.
According to Statista, McKinsey and the Women in Technology Empowerment Guide 2023, women make up 28% of computer science and maths workers and 15.9% of engineering and architecture occupations.
Although women make up 47.7% of the employed population in the United States, they account for only 28% of all computer science and maths employment opportunities in the country. Only 26% of women work in the largest IT companies. In the European Union, women make up only 17% of the ICT sector.
However, despite all this, when we look back, we see that there are very few moments that give reason to think more optimistically about the future. For example, according to the results of the DOU 2011 survey conducted in 2011, 6.8% of women are in the IT sector, while according to the results of the Harvard Business Review in 2008, 41% of women left this field due to discrimination. IT sector. 10 years later, the DOU 2021 survey shows that women's participation in the IT sector has increased from 6.8% to 22.%. According to the results of the WonderWoman 2021 survey, 43 per cent of women working in the IT sector came here from other fields.
Azerbaijani women and technology
What is the situation in Azerbaijan in this field? What is the proportion of women working in the IT sector in the country? Is IT a priority for girls planning to study? Does society accept women in the IT sector?
According to official information from the Statistical Committee, despite positive progress towards gender equality in the number of women and men in the workplace, especially in the IT field, women still make up only 26 per cent of the workforce in technological fields. Unfortunately, this trend is confirmed by the fact that only 11 per cent of women study STEAM in higher education institutions. Promoting women in STEM fields is on the agenda of Women in Technology.
The Azerbaijan branch of the Women in Tech® Global Movement has been operating for almost a year. During this year, the organisation organised the "Women in STEAM" festival, gatherings, trainings and meetings on various topics in STEAM for girls. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Women In Tech Azerbaijan and the Education Development Fund to establish a scholarship programme "ICT skills named after Maya Hajiyeva". The low number of female students in STEM fields is a loss for the country's economy. Therefore, not only girls and women, but also representatives of the opposite sex should help to eliminate this problem. It is necessary to educate society to break stereotypes and create a new mindset. To this end, Women in Technology also carries out outreach and awareness-raising activities among men and draws them into their ranks.
Statistics on girls in technology
Abdullayev Khalid, an 11th grade student from Baku European High School, who participated in the organisation as a volunteer, decided to investigate in more detail what she had observed during the collaboration and discussions. The aim of the research conducted by Khalid was to investigate the interest in IT among girls in Azerbaijan and to analyse stereotypes.
The study covered Baku and its regions and analysed the responses of 161 female students. The female students participating in the study were studying in the Russian and Azerbaijani sections of schools located in the centre and outskirts of Baku, while schoolchildren in the regions were studying in the Azerbaijani section. In total, the research was conducted in 5 schools in Baku and 3 schools in Saatli and Bilesuvar districts.
In general, the results of the study show that there is a significant difference between girls living in the regions and girls living in the capital city in terms of access to technological tools compared to girls living in the regions. For example, 70% of the respondents in the capital city have a computer at home, while this rate rises to 31.7% in the regions. At the same time, if you have a computer at home, the possibility of using it is more limited in the regions than in the capital.
Only 25% of respondents indicated this as their first choice. However, compared to the capital, 52% of girls who did not indicate IT as their first choice in the regions said that they could also choose this field. This indicator was 24% among the respondents of the capital.
The analysis of the survey results shows that girls think that their parents will support them if they choose IT as a field of activity. The group that would be most opposed to the choice of IT as a field of activity would be the girls' siblings and relatives.
The girls who were asked to comment on the stereotypes about the field of informatics stated that they strongly disagreed with the idea that the field of informatics is not suitable for girls or that girls cannot be successful in this field. However, they also think that being a doctor or a teacher would be a more appropriate career choice for girls. In their opinion, this kind of approach would be the basic approach of parents.
Of course, we would also like to point out the opportunities where the stories of women and girls who have been successful in the STEM field are told, various meetings are organised with them, promotions are made, courses and similar opportunities created by the state without any charge. The positive image of women in the field of informatics in the media, the establishment of mentoring programmes that can provide consultancy and career support to girls, and the organisation of internship programmes in leading companies for girls interested in this field are among the positive indicators. This means that if we continue to work in this direction, we can achieve a successful result.