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Why aren't there many women in IT/Tech?

By klwehe ·
I am a 31-year old woman and a late bloomer in the world of IT and technical support. I didn't touch a computer until I was 20 and didn't "officially" work in technical support until I was hired in my current position, where I've been for a year. It was only my interest in computers and technology *outside* of my previous career that gave me the skills necessary for my current job.

However, I when I talk to men in my age group I hear about how they have been working with computers since their teens which gives essentially gives them a 15-year head start on the experience curve.

This is the reason why I think there are really few women working in significant positions in IT/Tech these days. If you missed out on that long experiencecurve, you're a little screwed.

Even if you're an undergrad working on a CS degree, it's the years spent tinkering that really count.

What do you think?

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Quality, not quantity

by xxx123 In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

First, I'm a woman and I started my degree in CS in 1977 so the only exposure I had to computers before that was a Basic programming class conducted on "teletype" machines - - you know, type on the keyboard and stuff prints out on a little roll of paper - - no CRT involved!

Second, I've heard some young men blather about how they've been working with computers since they were 18 months old but a lot of time they're talking about pre-programmed games, yanking a joystick around, using email, maybe some chat rooms, etc. Does watching a lot of TV make you an electrical engineer? I don't think so.

Perhaps it's the stupid stereotypes about IT work and IT workers that fails to attract women. (You know, only male geeks need apply.) When Istarted working full-time in IT in 1981, women were about 10% of the IT staff. These days it seems more like 40%. I actually think there's been a lot of progress.

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You're right

by epepke In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

Of course, there have been exceptions, such as Donna Cox, Theresa Marie-Rhyne, and Maria whose last name I can't remember who invented the CAVE virtual environment.

And, of course, you can get pretty solid positions if you start in college or even later in life.

However, if you're talking statistically about the top-level, most creative, and most highly paid positions in IT, or for that matter in any field, they are going to be held by people who were fascinated with it and tinkered with it from an early age. Most of those with an early fascination in technical fields are boys.

I am a reasonable example of someone at least a couple of sigmas above the norm. I'm 40 now, and I knew I was going to do something like this since I wasthree years old and went to the 1964-65 World's Fair. At 9, I was building digital circuits using neon bulbs. At 14 I built my first computer, though I didn't get it working until I was 15. At 15 I worked a summer with the Youth Conservation Corps to earn enough money to buy a TRS-80. By the time I entered college at 17, I had been coding in assembly language and BASIC for years, and I also knew COBOL.

Of course, it goes without saying that I was shunned, ostracised, tormented, and socially crippled by rumors at the hands of girls my age.

So, now I make a lot of money, but I don't feel guilty about it. What goes around comes around. I would rather have had the social connection than any amount of money, but since I can't go back in time, I'll take the money.

It would be nice if this were to change, but that would require a major revolution in culture and its attitudes toward "eggheads," "nerds," and "geeks," and it would take at least a generation after the revolution to propagate. I keep reading in the paper how this is supposed to change, but whey I go visit middle and high schools, if anything, they're even worse today.

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by Pandadude In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

Little girl geeks tinkering with computers huh..gosh what a scary , bizarre scene.
Sometimes I really miss the older, simpler,
more "normal" days.
BTW when are we going to have female heavy weight boxing ?

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The tide will change...

by barry.ward In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

I'm going to sound like an old fart here, but if the amount of time my kids (all girls) spend on the net is anything to go by, the argument that teen-machine-tinkering tends to be a male domain is weakening.

I believe it goes to how IT is/was sold to the current generation of female in schools and colleges. There tends to be a prevalence of stereotyping in education even today, but these barriers are gradually being broken down.

Speaking from a male perspective, and having managed teams of mixed and single gender, my own experience has shown me that support people tend to fall into two categories: the doers and the thinkers. The girls/ladies/women I have employed have been better on the administrative side than on the rip-apart and delve activities. I found that there was generally a reluctance to get involved at a physical level out in the field, but the females were/are by far better customer facers. By encouraging them to get involved at all levels of the support function, most of my teams be came better equipped and even the males showed signs of being able to deal with non-techies without the sarcasm!

There also appears to be a mindset in company HR departments that females should not be subjected to shifts. This strengthens the stereotype that "girlies are not fit for the support role" even though the companies concerned purport to be equal opportunity committed.

Until true equality is promoted for all roles, not just IT, then there will always be thecultural negative for the corporate to hide behind.

Ladies, you burnt your bras in the sixties, now start breaking your fingernails.

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Women in IT/Tech

by Ladynred In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

You're absolutely correct, IT/Tech is a
predominantly male area. I am one of the few
women who actually has as much or more
experience in IT/Tech than msot men I know.
I've been in this businiess for 20+ years, 25
if you count the pre-pc era. I've forgotten
more software than most people ever learn.
I've run mainframe systems and tinkered with
the first IBM 8086 pc that ever hit my desk.
Before the PC, I was 'office automation
specialist', which meant I could make the old
Lanier wordprocessing stations jump through
hoops no one else could figure out. Yes, the
years of 'tinkering' do pay off. It seems
that no matter what position I've held over
the years, I ended up being the tech 'guru'
in the office.

I'm not sure why there aren't more women with
the long years of experience. However, I've
always been fascinated by technology and how
things work, and computers just sort of
'clicked' for me. Not all girls in Jr. High
knew they wanted to go into computers in
college.. I did.

I'm a geek and I admit it :). Its true that I
don't get the respect as a tech that men
get.. until I show them up and prove that I
know as much or more than my male
counterparts. I don't see it changing a whole
lot, though I have run across more young
women getting into the field. Unfortunately,
someone jumping into the tech field at a time
when they've never even seen a DOS prompt,
are, in my opinion, lacking some basic
experience. No, I don't use DOS as much as Iused to either, but there's something to be
said for learning how the process works
behind the fancy GUI interfaces. There really
needs to be more of an emphasis for girls to
get them interested early, and now that
computers are prevalent in school rooms, that
may happen.

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Women in IT

by kelliott In reply to Why aren't there many wom ...

I'm another of those few women with the same (or more) experience as my male coworkers. I had my first programming class in second grade. I was the only girl in the computer club in high school. And I went in the Navy to learn electronics. I'm 31 now and a hands-on PC and network tech. I do indeed break fingernails regularly....

Maybe the numbers say that 40% of people in the field are females but there's no way that 40% of them are techs. We are few and far between. I think that those of us who do need to get the word out to others. I love to go to schools and talk to kids about what I do for a living. I've spoken to scout troops and other youth organizations, too. Girls need role models and who better than people like us?Karen

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