Lady Techs

Report finds the number of women in federal IT grew 36 percent in the past 20 years.

Women remain relatively scarce in a few federal job fields, including information technology and engineering -- areas important to the current and future federal workforce, according to a new report by the Merit Systems Protection Board.

MSPB found that the number of women in the federal IT field has increased 36 percent since 1991, while the number of women in engineering fields has actually declined 17 percent since that time.

In addition, among professional and administrative employees with fewer than 10 years of service, the education gap between men and women has now shifted to favor women. MSPB noted that the same shift also has occurred outside of the federal government, with women now accounting for the majority of college students and the college degrees conferred each year. Still, men continue to outnumber women in the areas of science and technology, MSPB found.

The report also found that even within a given federal occupation, women often have lower salaries than men -- a discrepancy that cannot be fully explained by differences in factors like experience and education, MSPB found.

Still, without an adequate pipeline of women specializing in IT fields, there's not much the federal government can do to increase representation of women in federal IT. MSPB offers some tips to agencies and managers to take to at least do better job of attracting women to work in federal IT. For example, agencies can maximize flexibility in work arrangements and job requirements, catering to highly capable applicants and employees with life and family responsibilities who might otherwise find a competing employer who is more accommodating, MSPB noted.

Providing continuing feedback and development to employees, improving the recruitment and selection of supervisors, avoiding stereotypes and assumptions in day-to-day work and using both internal and external sources of talent for hiring can all make a difference in agencies looking to boost the representation of women in their ranks, according to the report.

"We note that the subjects and recommendations of this report are not purely or even primarily 'women's issues,'" the report states. "Effective, merit-based human resources practices -- including outreach and recruitment, workplace fairness and effective supervision -- matter to everyone and can yield positive dividends in workforce quality and organizational performance."

Wired Workplace is a daily look at issues facing the federal information technology workforce. It is written by former Government Executive reporter Brittany Ballenstedt and published on Click here to read the latest entries.