The Center for Industrial Competitiveness and the Center for Women and Work at the University of Massachusetts Lowell are pleased to sponsor a National Science Foundation-funded study, Project TechForce: Women and Men in Information Technology Workplaces. The project's first stage ran through June 2003 and investigated the factors affecting the attraction, retention, and promotion of women and men in information technology (IT) by focusing on female and male professionals who hold bachelors, masters, or Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science/Computer Engineering (CS/CE) and who work in software and Internet companies.

The project explored issues such as the economic security, job stability, and career pathways of IT workers; the structure of work in IT organizations; the impact of temporary, part-time, and contract work on women in IT; the evaluation, training and reward structures in IT; and the implicit and explicit values in IT design processes and products.

Because of the under-representation of women among IT professionals, this study considered the specific issues and barriers facing women in the IT workforce. Are the factors identified for women computer professionals universal to women's experiences in other Science, Math, and Engineering fields, based on established knowledge? What factors are particular to IT workplaces, IT skills, and IT career patterns? How do differences among women (e.g. racial/ethnic, socio-economic) affect their experiences and outcomes in IT?

Women with CS/CE degrees represent a group of workers with demonstrated ability and credentials for IT work, who are arguably well positioned within academic and professional networks. Their career trajectories and experiences can provide a benchmark for future research to examine the circumstances of women with other educational backgrounds in IT. Additionally, software/Internet workplaces employ high concentrations of IT professionals. Focusing on one significant type of IT work setting enabled project researchers to best identify factors of industry context, work organization, and culture that correlate with the retention and promotion of women.

Project TechForce partnered with the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council to study employees in its 800 member firms. The study included an employee survey using internet-based survey technology, as well as 200 interviews with men and women working in the field.

This project established the nation's first systematic research and database concerning women and men software workers in the IT industry. The project findings will be of great interest to the research, science policy, and business communities, as well as to the media and members of the broader public concerned with IT workplaces and the role of women in science and technology.

The project team included Paula Rayman (Principal Investigator); Sarah Kuhn (Co-Principal Investigator); and Joyce Davis (Research Project Director). The advisory board for the project included top-level national scholars and experts in IT: Lewis Branscomb (John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University); Allan Fisher (Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University); Mary Good (American Association for the Advancement of Science); Lilian Wu (Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory, IBM); and Joyce Plotkin (Massachusetts Software & Internet Council)


Joyce Davis, Research Project Director
Project Techforce