Comparing three theories of the gender gap in information technology careers: The role of salience differences

Kevin A. Harmon, Eric A. Walden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The information technology (IT) field faces a skills shortage. Only 17% of a projected 3.5 million computing job openings are expected to be filled by 2026 (National Association for Women & Information Technology, 2018). Yet the number of women pursuing IT careers continues to decrease— only 19% of IT bachelor’s degrees in 2016 were awarded to women compared to 57% of bachelor’s degrees overall. We compared three theories that could explain this gender gap in the pursuit of IT careers: Expectancy-value theory, role congruity theory, and field-specific ability beliefs theory. We find that women and men are similar in their levels of important factors related to career interest, but that two of these factors—technical learning self-efficacy and agentic goals—have increased salience for women. This suggests that some of the gender gap in the IT field could be addressed by placing more focus on developing technical learning self-efficacy in both men and women. While this could help both women and men, it would likely have an outsized effect on the IT career pursuit of women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1099-1145
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Career
  • Expectancy-Value Theory
  • Field-Specific Ability Beliefs
  • Gender
  • Gender Gap
  • Information Technology
  • Role Congruity Theory


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