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Friday, March 11, 2005

A post on SlashDot today caught my eye:

"NewsFactor is running a story on the exodus of women from the I.T. field. According to the article, women made up 41% of the I.T workforce in 1996. That number dropped to 35% by 2002 and that "the downward spiral is gaining momentum." While this is certainly a concern, what are the overall effects of such a mass departure?"

What piqued my interest is the fact that these numbers do not necessarily mean that there is a mass exodus of women from IT. Use the table below as an example.

% Male59%65%
% Female41%35%

It was assumed for simplicity that there were exactly 10,000 people in the industry in 1996. As you can see statistically, males grew much more substantially in the IT industry than females, but it is completely fallacious to say that, in a case such as this, there was a mass exodus of women from the industry, when there was actually a 2% increase.

I present this illustration as an exercise in understanding statistics when they are presented to you by self-serving individuals. It may well be that there IS a "mass exodus" of females from the IT workforce, but one cannot come to that conclusion based simply on the data given by the poster on SlashDot.

People can argue that we are losing jobs because of outsourcing, while conveniently ignoring insourced jobs. People can also argue that the government wants to implement spending cuts in specific programs, when the reality is that the government wants to reel in new spending by proposing less growth in the same program. Such tactics cut both ways, and come from both sides of the political aisle. In the information age, where facts and numbers come at us with astounding frequency, we would be best served if we would try to understand the facts before making any assumptions.


.: posted by Dave 9:52 AM

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