Research on internalised gender biases by INSEAD Professors Lucia Del Carpio and Maria Guadalupe may help explain why more women don’t enter the tech field.

Although computing and technology are among the world’s fastest-growing industries, the gender divide in the tech sector is widening. In 1995, 37 percent of computer scientists were women, but that number has since dropped to 24 percent, according to research from Accenture and Girls Who Code. Unless this trend is reversed, within 10 years, it is expected to sink further to 22 percent.

To better understand the source of this problem, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Economics Lucia Del Carpioand Associate Professor of Economics and Political Science Maria Guadalupe are conducting new research on internalised gender biases. Their fieldwork in Latin America demonstrates that showing successful female role models dramatically increases the number of applications from women to coding training programmes. This suggests that shifting women’s perceptions of what they can accomplish is perhaps the first step in bringing gender equity to the industry.

We spoke with Del Carpio and Guadalupe about their research and how to create meaningful, global change in the tech sector.

Q. What drew you to this topic?

Del Carpio: We observed patterns of occupational segregation. There are certain jobs in which you only observe women, and there are certain jobs in which you only observe men. Technology is one of those. We were also worried about recent changes in the economy and the skills that are considered valuable.

“The digital economy is growing a lot, so we wondered: Why are more women not getting into the tech sector?”

Guadalupe: That was the big question. What are the barriers that preclude more women from entering a sector that’s clearly growing—especially when a lot of traditional jobs are dying? Is the fact that there are few women in the industry a barrier to more women entering the industry?

Q. How did the research begin?

Del Carpio: Our hypothesis was that there are some gender norms that affect how you make a decision. Perhaps people don’t choose what they like or where they can make the most money because they don’t feel they belong or have the ability to enter certain sectors. I am Peruvian, and I found a company in Peru that was training only women to code. We started working with them to try to understand how successful the programme was, the type of women they were training and the impact that these women had in the labour market. Almost everybody they trained gets a job—most receive a threefold increase in income—but, for some reason, they were not getting enough candidates. We thought this was the right opportunity.

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