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Women in IT

By SheilaU ·
I read an article recently that stated that there is a shortage of women in IT, and that it's because IT as a whole is a loner type of field - not much customer interaction, etc. I'm wondering what you all think about this - are there really less women, and for those of us who are women in IT - do you think it's a loner sport? I guess the article puzzled me, because not all of IT is the stereotypical programmer parked in front of his PC in a dark cube cramming junk food in his mouth....most of it is the opposite, in fact! I've been in IT for 12 years and counting now, and I love it. My manager is a woman, and one of the directors of IS in our company is a woman. So - what's the word out there? Is there a shortage of female IT workers, and if so - why do you think that is?

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Somewhat at Senior levels

by James R Linn In reply to Women in IT

If I look at my current organization, there is some evidence of stereotypical biases - more women than men on help desk, more men than women dbas. But I wouldn't say its a dire shortage - there is a somewhat even distribution, with the exception of senior management.

I attribute that factor to time - if you need 15-20 years experience to be in senior management ranks, IT was much smaller, and had fewer women back in the early 80s.

I will say that I've seen and heard evidence in the past about the math gap. Men tend to score higher in math than women, and some studies have shown that its not an apititude thing, rather its the way math is taught, and to an extent the renforcing of traditional stereotypes regarding math, men and women. Math is a major pre-requisite for highly technical programming.

But I'd have to say that while my last ten years have seen more men than women programmers, I see that gap closing with time.

I too have had women managers, who have been quite succssful in going into higher levels of managment.

Hope that helps.


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Will Agree on the Math Thing

by SheilaU In reply to Somewhat at Senior levels

I will admit freely that I despise mathematics...I had a horrible teacher in high school who told us on the first day that "if you're female, you will fail this class". I still shudder when someone says the word "geometry"!

I also agree that time is a big factor in seeing women in upper management of IT. Those that are there now have put in some serious time, and energy, to get where they are. In time, I'm sure we'll see more and more, just like any other industry.

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Not a loner sport

by admin In reply to Women in IT

IT demands a great deal of customer interaction in some areas and little in others. You can find extremely social positions in IT.
I see more men than women in the field still, but I think that in my own experience of being a single parent (truly- with my kid all except 6 nights in the last 3 months) that it is difficult finding flexible enough positions in IT to let you walk your kid to and from school, be off on school breaks, and still get a salary good enough to make a house payment. Most IT jobs demand big sacrifices in time and this is at odds with parenting which many women are closer to than men in our society still.
I'm sure that is not the only reason, but it appears to me to be a contributing factor :)

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I See Your Point

by SheilaU In reply to Not a loner sport

I am a mother, but luckily not a single parent, so I do have some help. I have been extremely fortunate in that I work for a company that puts people and family life first...if your child is sick, or you need to be home because of a snow day, they do their utmost to accomodate your situation. We have a backup daycare center onsite for employees, and they provide us with the tools we need to be able to work from home if possible. Wish more companies would do the same....

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Myth based in fact

by Prefbid II In reply to Women in IT

Anytime there is an analysis like this, the first question I want to ask is: What is the appropriate number of (fill in the blank)? To say there is a shortage says that someone figured out that there is a "right" number.

Are 52% of the IT workforce women? That's easy to check (answer is no). Is this a problem? I don't know that I can say. It's like asking if there is appropriate representation for any group. It's been my observation that Indian, Asian and White men are over-representedin the IT field. I have no idea if that is a problem either.

Is it a stereotype that drives people in or out of the field? Somehow I have my doubts. Most people go into career's that interest them. There is only so much interest that you can force down someone's throat. Maybe it has to do with math (I thnk they are guessing). It may have more to do with how they process information (men on average have fewer synapses between the brain hemispheres). Maybe IT appeals to those of us who only think with half our brain engaged on any one task.

Maybe it is because the IT guy is rarely seen in movies and on TV as anything other than a badly dressed nerd (unless he is the bad guy -- in which case it is Gucci all the way).

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Would Like to see that magic number!! :)

by SheilaU In reply to Myth based in fact

Like I said, the attitude in the article confused me. I work with so many women in my department and division that at first the "shockingly low number of women in IT" statement in the article took me by surprise. Then I thought maybe I just lived with my head in the sand - or should I say snow (it's possible - I'm in WI, after all!!) So I was wondering how they arrived at that statment and wanted to toss the comment out here and see what I got back.

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It's not just IT

by road-dog In reply to Women in IT

Sit in the lobby of a hotel frequented by business travelers. (any hotel called "The Airport-*.* for instance) 90% of business travellers are men.

Peoplewatch at a trade show such as Interop, there is an overwhelming majority of men and a booth with a scantily dressed female has guys 25 deep looking "at the product"

There is hope, though.

I'm seeing more women in training classes in the last 18 months or so, so perhaps more women are being invested in by companies.

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Used to be a Traveler Myself

by SheilaU In reply to It's not just IT

At one of my previous jobs, I was put into sales for a short time because I knew the software so well. I spent the majority of my time on the road at trade shows and meetings. I have to say, it was uncomfortable at times because I would often be the only woman in the area. I was often accused of only being there as "eye candy", and was asked if there was "someone they could talk to about the product" though I didn't know what I was doing simply because I was female. Now, however, I seea gradual shift in attitudes that makes me very happy I stuck with this industry. I did move away from sales, though - I've found I'm much happier fixing machines than trying to convince some poor sap to purchase them :)

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by road-dog In reply to Used to be a Traveler Mys ...

I COMPLETELY agree with you on the sales comment. I had a pathological aversion to sales and was quite happy sticking to the post-sales Engineering functions in my life as an employee. When I created my business plan for my consulting business, I found that I had a major weakness in the sales and marketing arena. Fortunately, I was able to cover that angle through a partnership with another Engineer with massive pre-sales experience and a 4th degree black belt in schmoozing. Problem solved!

I now have a greater respect for sales, but have taken steps to structure my company in such a way as to utilize engineering as ?eyes on the inside? for sales, but stick to engineering. That?s why I chose to avoid the VAR model, and stick to consulting.

As for the ?eye candy? comment, I suspect that that stereotype is continued due to the small number of women in this field who really are there as ?eye candy?. I did a total network enema on a healthcare organization, and the manager had recently thrown out a VAR because they sent this attractive young lady to one of their sites to install a router in a comm. closet. She showed up in ultra tight skirt and could not even climb a ladder to do the install! Unfortunately folks like that have a tendency to be remembered better than a dozen onsite visits by an appropriately dressed woman who gets the job done as advertised?..

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In the 80s

by James R Linn In reply to SALES, ARRRRGH!

It was quite common for software companies to have models at trade shows to demonstrate product. They would read canned presentations, do the Vanna White thing demoing the box etc. Many of them dressed provocatively.

"Legitimate" women at trade shows are paying for that legacy.

I see it less at computer trade shows, but go to a car show, its alive and well.


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