Is IT a Little Too Guy Friendly?

Charlene OHanlon

There are no lines at the women's restrooms in IT firms.

Twenty years after the U.S. Department of Education put an emphasis on getting more female students to embrace math and science, there still is a dearth of females in the IT space.

Why is that?

IT is, by most accounts, a process-oriented field. And some of the most successful women I've ever known are intelligent, process-oriented people who could think circles around some of the most successful men I've ever known. In fact, half the time they're two steps ahead of those men.

If you read the research, women don't enter IT because it is still very much a male-dominated environment. Like many other mostly male careers, IT is so infused with 'guyness' that women are put off.

Of course, there are some trailblazers and there are organizations such as Women in Technology International (WITI)  and the National Center for Women in Technology. And I recently heard an American Express Plum commercial featuring the female owner of a technology services firm based in Texas. But frankly, there aren't enough of them to make a loud enough noise to be noticed.

And the U.S. is not alone in this situation. A recent survey conducted at the 360-degree IT event in London shows that three quarters of respondents believe their companies are not doing enough to attract women into IT. One-fifth of the respondents, on the other hand, said there were already enough women in IT so no more needed to be done.  But with an astounding 20 percent of its IT workforce female, the UK is light years ahead of the United States.

What can be done to attract more women into IT? Is it even an argument worth having? I'd like to know more about the women who are in IT and setting an example. Alternatively, I'd like to know your thoughts as to why there aren't more women entering the IT space in the first place?



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Aug 19, 2010 10:08 AM mataj mataj  says:
Yes, the most successful women are intelligent, process-oriented people. And that's why they were able to see through the hype and figure out that IT career's ROI is ridiculously low. And yes, they can think circles around the most successful men still in IT. In fact, half the time they�re two steps ahead of those men. And that's why they are bailing out of the IT field, and men don't -- for the time being. Reply
Aug 29, 2010 6:08 PM Gramma Gramma  says:
It is frustrating. I have been preaching and talking and writing about the shortage of IT workers here in the states and still people are not taking advantage of the increased grants and scholarships available, to train for these jobs. In a lot of cases, the IT field would be perfect for the mother who want to work from home so that she can keep an eye on her children. I am afraid that the main cause of this failure is the geek and nerd image that seems to go hand it hand with the IT field. Thing is those geeks and nerds, yes, the ones you picked on in school, are all going to end up your bosses and pay back. It isn't fun. Reply
Sep 14, 2010 3:09 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
I'm amazed that this keeps coming up. How many programs do we need to try and get women to go into this field, or that field? These social engineering practices are a waste of resources. Reply
Oct 22, 2010 1:10 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Well, it's true. There was a study recently that showed how in many areas, diversity in IT has gone down, and not just for women. Minorities, older workers, and even white males are decreasing in favor of young, Asian males. That's what the H-1B and L-1 programs are doing to us, among other things. Reply
Oct 29, 2010 6:10 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
I'm 50 years old and have been the lone female in most organizations I've worked for in the last 27 years. Raising children in this field was hard. If you want to go home at 5:00 and do laundry and clean house and take your kids to soccer on the weekends, you can't be working the 60 and 80 hour weeks successful guys in IT work. Conversations in cubicle land sometimes revolve around World of Warcraft and football, equally unappealing for me, although some women might like it ok. I've had very few chances for female friends over the years, there is no one else similar to me, and social life is important to most women. I worked more than twice as hard as the girls in my sorority in college, they were having fun while I was in the library. On the flip side, I have a lot of guy friends, and it has been a very good career financially, much more so than most of my female acquaintances' careers. I have experienced outright discrimination in the early years, but now organizations that might not interview a man my age will interview me and welcome me, which you might call "preferential treatment". If I fail or if I succeed, I am more visible than the males around me by virtue of being different, and that has pros and cons as well. I love writing code, I find it rewarding to see the results of my work physically and I have no artistic ability, so this is the best environment for that. I love the continual puzzle solving mode of this job. I don't recommend IT to very many women because of any of those issues though. I don't recommend it because the field is so difficult to last a lifetime in. There aren't too many "old programmers" working these days. You either go into management of some kind or lose your job, eventually. Even if you can stay, you must constantly be educating yourself, requiring a great deal of extra effort continually. You never know when your entire department or organization will be outsourced and you have to start all over, so staying "marketable" is a must, if it's possible. These issues are not specific to men or women, but they do make it unattractive to enter the field. Reply
Mar 8, 2011 5:11 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to mataj
Successful people are intelligent and process-oriented. I don't know why you think that you can say, "And yes, they can think circles around the most successful men still in IT. In fact, half the time they’re two steps ahead of those men.", and then complain about sexism. Women inately have their strong points, and so do men. That's why a diverse workforce is a productive one. Reply
Mar 8, 2011 5:14 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Gramma
There are good bosses and bad bosses (nerds or not). If your boss is a nerd, but is smart, kind and self assured...he's probably not trying to get back at you. :) Reply
Mar 12, 2011 12:03 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
If anyone is interested, I've copied & pasted below something I posted to a blog related to IBM mainframes. When I started programming in the late '70s, you could either tolerate the demands of that salaried job (50-60 hours/week spread 24x7) or you couldn't. It was perish, survive or thrive. Those who perished failed to dedicate themselves in time and effort (worked 9-5 M-F) while those who thrived focused on getting the job done even if it meant not going home for 3 days. Never confuse working hard with working smart. In a real meritocracy, gender, race, age, etc. don't matter. However, "buying" three good programmers in India for the cost of one good one in the U.S. makes it very tough for the U.S. and European software pros. Only the strongest survive. ... I've worked with people who loosely fit the following profiles, spread over 20 years of college graduation dates: 1972 - An Engineering major finds a terrible job market for him and classmates, so he takes a job in the electronic data processing ("EDP") department of a company that has an IBM 360 mainframe running COBOL 68 and BAL. He learns both languages on the job and understands computers well enough that he's pulled into systems programming. 1977 - A Biology major with average grades won't be teaching nor going to med, dent or vet school. S/he hears that insurance companies are hiring people off the street and training them to be COBOL programmers. This person starts a career in management information systems ("MIS"). When (s)he is stumped at work, it's the '72 engineering grad who helps. 1982 - A Business major with some courses in COBOL and Systems Analysis is hired to work on in-house developed corporate applications. Much of the work is maintaining batch programs and writing new ones for online apps using CICS. 1987 - An MIS major with classmates who earned Computer Science degrees is hired to help convert his shop from DOS/VSE to OS/MVS. Like his older colleagues, he's involved with everything other than assembler code, which "belongs" to the Systems Programmers. 1992 - Word is out that centralized, IBM mainframe work is old and that non-IBM, distributed systems are where the action is. Companies' line-of-business executives are buying turnkey systems, defying the "glass house" model and ushering in the era of multi-platform, enterprise computing. New college grads have avoided BAL, look down on COBOL and even Pascal. Now Unix is hot and Oracle is the ticket to imagined job security. Today - After Y2K, new COBOL development work became scarce. Mainframe shops are still consolidating to fewer, bigger data centers, outsourcing has been depleting job opportunities for at least 15 years and many of the profiled people above are unemployed, doing contract work cheaply or retiring sooner than desired. From EDP to MIS to IT, the dynamic industry that giveth now taketh away. Even if a first generation guy made it to Director of MIS and then Chief Information Officer, he's probably in trouble because technical CIOs are being replaced by financial CIOs who don't hesitate to send the company's IT function overseas or to "the Cloud." ...Simon, you and your peers were the veterans who helped get the hypothetical '72 Engineering grad started in computing, who in turn helped me survive my first couple of years as a COBOL programmer. Systems Programmers were also great when I needed assistance with BAL. I tip my hat to you guys. Reply
Jul 1, 2011 7:07 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
In general anyone with a family and kids does not make a good IT worker. Programming especially requires double-hour days most days and sometimes even weekends on top of that. Getting a product out requires obsession, dedication, and pure drive. Most familiy people don't have time for that. That's why Silicon valley was originally built by nerds. Remember Cringely's series "Revenge of the Nerds"? Lone wolf nerd geeks have nearly unlimited time. They can spend all day and all night 24/7 coding. Family people need to go home at 5 and take care of their families. The driving out of the nerd geek from IT and the replacement of him with "business" and "normal" people is the prime cause of the collapse of our economy. In fact, Silicon Valley today is all about being pretty and hip, not about making great products. The pretty blow-dried people have taken over and the economy shows it. Women in general also just do not like technical subjects because it doesn't provide anything women want: security, a warm-fuzzy feeling, friends, a boyfriend or husband, etc. The geek nerd can get satisfaction in life from nothing more than code. Women, not so much. At one job where I was tech lead on a software product one very attractive woman was taken out of phone support and put right in as a QA lead. Needless to say the product didn't get tested properly and went out the door with problems. When the SHTF she came into my office crying saying "I don't have the skills you have". It was as if she was begging to remain in IT just because she wanted to be in IT, not because she was qualified for the job. This woman was stunningly beautiful and simply didn't have time to devote to an IT career. She was too busy with boyfriends and going out to parties or socializing, or whatever. So the pretty people WANT to be in IT but don't have the time to devote to furthering their skills to do the job. Not good. Reply
Aug 16, 2011 6:08 PM Anonymous-rd Anonymous-rd  says:
I found the same observation about IT wages... As a business person having the advantage of working in the Supply Chain area prior to my move to IT, I can tell you that the ability of someone to explain and understand requirements is essential. However, I am afraid that businesses in the US only understand "Cost" as the primary value driver. They only want the lowest cost. They are not willing to spend up-front to get the requisite solution in place. They would rather spend less this quarter, and spend some more next quarter, and the next quarter instead of making the investment in a quality solution up-front. This will drive pay scales down and send more US dollars "off-shore" as the lower pay scale is acceptable elsewhere. Just as businesses are rethinking their low-cost factories in China, maybe they should rethink their low-cost IT departments as well. Reply
Aug 16, 2011 6:08 PM Anonymous-rd Anonymous-rd  says:
I made the same observation.... As a business person having the advantage of working in the Supply Chain area prior to my move to IT, I can tell you that the ability of someone to explain and understand requirements is essential. However, I am afraid that businesses in the US only understand "Cost" as the primary value driver. They only want the lowest cost. They are not willing to spend up-front to get the requisite solution in place. They would rather spend less this quarter, and spend some more next quarter, and the next quarter instead of making the investment in a quality solution up-front. This will drive pay scales down and send more US dollars "off-shore" as the lower pay scale is acceptable elsewhere. Just as businesses are rethinking their low-cost factories in China, maybe they should rethink their low-cost IT departments as well. Reply
Sep 14, 2011 1:09 PM G G  says:
I've often wished that there were more women in IT (too bring some balance). What I found through years of experience is that women in IT require special treatment or they won't hang around. They demand more pay than the company average, time off for their kids and parents, more remote (work-from-home), etc. I hate to say it but that is what I always saw. And woman don't like to travel on assignments. They are afraid they will crack a nail pulling luggage through the airport terminal. Reply
Dec 6, 2011 9:54 AM Karrie Kimberley Karrie Kimberley  says: in response to Wakjob
Some of you guys don't half make yoursleves look very stupid with such chauvinistic comments....look it up on google! I see you noticed a lot about this stunning woman...a little bit jealous are we?! or resentful that she's never look at you?! I think you need to watch this and watch your back!!! http://youtu.be/cpXzKnnRDpA Reply
Jan 3, 2012 11:01 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Wow. I am floored by some of the comments given regarding women's inability and unwillingness to put in the time and effort to make it in IT. I have spent 30 years in IT and have put in my share of long hours, lugged cables and equipment through airports, traveled alot, put in long hours, etc. and have been very successful. I did not worry about breaking a nail going through equipment installs. I think if a person is willing to put the time and effort in including to keep re-educating themselves (which I have done numerous times at my own expense) then the rewards are worth it. Is it still a male dominated field, yes, but what the heck it is still a good career. I think folks should be careful with the generalizations. Reply

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