The field of IT is one of the most evolving fields requiring expert skills. According to CareerJunction , IT is one of South Africa’s top five employment sectors. Software Development is named as the most sought-after skill in the job market having grown by 12% from month to month during 2019. In addition, InformationWeek states that fast-growing jobs are emerging in the tech space with many relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning . CareerJunction  advertised 2872 IT jobs in South Africa and the IT jobs most in demand are software development and programming. South Africa is a developing country where IT skills are in high demand. These IT skills are not met by Higher Education Institutions’ IT graduate numbers [14, 22].
In examining the contrasts of the genders participating in IT leadership positions, Rogers  noted that the number of women professionals involved in high ranking professional IT jobs was significantly lower compared to their male counterparts. Less than 15% of females are in leadership positions in the IT industry . During the year 2014, technology companies that are IT industry drivers disclosed their staff demographics. Companies such as Google, revealed that only 17% of their IT staff were female, while Apple and Facebook had 20% and 15% respectively .
Careers in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have historically experienced low levels of representation from females [11, 24]. Study fields such as Medicine [11, 30] have achieved successes in recruiting more females to the profession than in the past, due to their early career education, focused training methods and research strategies that are designed to attract female participants to the profession. IT on the other hand, continues to lag behind and is experiencing the opposite, with decreasing numbers of women participants compared to earlier decades .
Career choices are made by young people during their early secondary school career . This is a similar assertion made by Armstrong and Riemenschneider  who examined an earlier model by scholar Ahuja , which noted that the choice of a career in IT is made years before the individual starts working. The high school era is a critical time where young people are guided by their family, teachers, career counsellors and role models most influential to them, to choose school subjects that later direct them to future fields of study and careers.
Teachers who act as career counsellors have been noted to have a strong influence on the career choices of their scholars, however this advice has resulted in furthering the gender imbalance in IT. Adya and Kaiser  discovered that teachers were more likely to encourage girls towards traditionally female careers such as pre-primary teaching, nursing and secretarial work and males towards technical careers . This is due to their own limited perspectives, societal biases with partial information of the profession of IT and other career options. Cultural factors also influence career choice and include but are not limited to religion, personal relations, frame of reference and attitudes towards networking among others .
2.1 Women in IT
Although women outnumber men in terms of enrolment in higher learning institutions, when it comes to technology-based degrees, men dominate. The number of women obtaining degrees in computer and information systems continues to decrease while the number of women in law school, medical school and other STEM fields gradually increases . The major influences that Jung et al.  identified were the influence of marketing, media portrayal of women in technology, role models, social encouragement and education impact.
Factors influencing the career choices of scholars according to Snyman  are self-efficacy, outcome expectations, goal representations, interest and sources of advice, financial expectations and the gender gap. The gender gap particularly identifies factors that influence women. Seeing women working in the technical field and female IT role models also influences girls when deciding on their careers . It is important for children to have access to and use computers at home and in schools . Parental support is another influential factor on whether women choose a technology related major. Researchers have highlighted the important role of parents, specifically the role the father plays in the children’s career choices [9, 31].
High performance in school in problem solving subjects like mathematics is linked to increased self-confidence. Women who opt for a successful career in IT have been noted to be those who experimented with technology and viewed themselves early in life as capable. By choosing this career path, women often want to engage with their skills, grow through promotional opportunities and have the ability to reach top management levels. Women who have opted for IT find the salaries, future status and lifestyle attractive features of a career in IT . Women with STEM degrees were noted to earn more than their peers who opted for other degrees and had projected job growth of 17% compared to 9.8% of those in non-STEM degrees .
Great lengths have been taken by society and families to attract and encourage young high school scholars of all genders to enter professional careers due to increased status for the family [5, 33]. The careers include doctors, accountants and lawyers. However IT, whilst misunderstood as a profession by society and families at large, is seen and respected as a smart profession often reserved for technical males [9, 25].
The lack of prominent female IT role models influences societal views on the profession. Culturally, females have not been socialised to view the field of IT as an important field of study. Pretorius and De Villiers  revealed that 66% of females in South Africa view the field of IT as cold with great emphasis on functional, abstract, procedural and task-oriented characteristics. They associate IT as mainly concerned with programming and building hardware.
Male dominance and the results of one-sided involvement in the IT field can be seen in the entertainment industry of gaming where technology has been used to develop recreational games. These games largely cater for the male population thus possibly reducing the potential profits that could be earned from involving female participants. Games are not being used as a tool to raise interest in technology in females . The use of video games was noted by Main and Schimpf  as a contributing factor to computer biases. Access to games arouses technical interest, improves skills, such as design and rotational abilities and thus serves as an entry to the IT field and is a promoter of interest as it develops skills such as graphic design in participants.
2.2 Culture and Societal Attitudes Regarding Family
Females are often noted to have strong societal ties to family units, religion and cultural activities and thus participation in a career often hinges on the support from these communities and the ability to continue with the associated activities with these groups [23, 29]. Du Bow  outlined that even though high achieving females outnumber males in the mathematics field, the under-representation of women in IT reflects social, cultural and family thinking . While women live in modern times, the traditional family structure has not changed. Women continue to be the primary care givers of families. Pretorius and De Villiers  observed that women battle to balance a demanding IT job while still being heavily involved at home.
Family influence is the reason for the high volume of females participating in the IT field in Mauritius, as the family and national culture encourage females to view IT as a potentially viable career . Over 53% of Computer Science enrolments in Mauritius in 2011 were women. This is a similar situation in the Indian society, where the family structure supports the idea of women actively choosing the IT field as a career of choice. In societies such as India and the Soviet Union, women participate in IT careers in higher numbers when compared to men .
In South Africa, this reality is different as women view themselves according to traditional society’s expectations, which emphasise women as homemakers before being viewed as career women. Adya and Kaiser  concurred that females who opt for IT have been noted to come from families where the parents are highly educated. The influence of parents with degrees allows the family structure to choose non-traditional careers where success is highly valued.