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    “Lack of women in IT” = “Torches of Freedom”?


    by jkameleon ·

    I’ve been in IT for almost quarter of a century, and all that time, alarmistic predictions about catastrophic shortage of programmers & other IT professionals (which never came to pass, of course) were trumpeted as the background accompaniment. Until the mid 1990s, most of the IT people actually believed them. And then came the infamous 1998/1999 ITAA “Critical Programmer Shortage” PR campaign

    immediatelly followed by dotcom crash, H1B, offshoring, and critical programmer downsizing. Consequently, IT public became pretty sceptical towards shortage shouting. For the last couple of years, virtually every online news article about IT talent/skill shortage triggers a torrent of irritated comments.

    I’ve noticed an interested phenomena lately. If you enter “talent shortage”, “skill shortage” etc into google, significant portion of articles found talks about lack of women in IT, and wanders about how to achieve the gender balance. Articles bemoaning the shortage of IT labour as such became pretty rare.

    Now… Lack of men in education or healthcare never was a problem, and neither was lack of women in construction, military, law enforcement, or logging. Why the fuck should lack of women in IT be a problem then? Something obviously stinks about the whole thing, but what? What are the interests here? Who benefits? Is IT industry leadership populated by male chauvinists, who consider women more manageable, and want more of them in the workforce? Are they expecting less uproar from women when they ship their jobs overseas? Do they need flexible workforce, which can be parked in the kitchen during recessions? The demand for labour always was very volatile in IT.

    The above explanations are far more probable than sincerity of IT industry’s aspiration for gender balance, but still… they somehow doesn’t seem probable enough. As I pondered about this, I’ve just got a flash of wit. I remembered the “Torches of Freedom”, the
    famous PR stunt of Eddie Bernays, the legendary master of advertizing and propaganda:

    Hired by tobacco industry, Bernays managed to prevail upon women to start smoking by masking it into gender equality issue. Anybody trying to prevent women from ruining their lungs & health by smoking could be branded a male chauvinist, and every debate about smoking hazards could easily be derailed into debate about gender issues.

    The more I think about this, the more the “Torches of Freedom” resembles the “Lack of Women into IT” campaign.

    Any thoughts?

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