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Technology: Where have all the women gone? Expand / Collapse
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 7:51 AM

Right there with Babe

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Just for the record, I consider myself a geek and am proud of it.  Who really knows what leads someone to be a programmer or a DBA or a pet groomer or whatever? I always enjoyed working math problems as a kid. In grade school, I would usually complete every problem in the textbook by the end of Christmas vacation.  I enjoy figuring things out, and I think that led me to computers.

I do know that I was very unhappy in my previous career and love being a DBA. I also enjoy working with mostly men and have always received fair treatment.

One interesting note about my family: I am the oldest of seven children. My three brothers and I are all in IT.  My three sisters and my daughter are not in IT, but are the unofficial help-desks for their offices.  They are very good at figuring things out on computers but are not interested in making a career of them.

Aunt Kathi
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Post #344538
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 7:56 AM


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I work in IT for 20 years.  Being a woman in the IT field, I definitely can feel the discrimination.  First thing about salary, it does not matter I can do a good job or even a better job than my male co-workers, their salary are higher.  (Don't argue with me, I check that with my friends at HR, even it is confidential, my friends will not say how much those people earn but agree the company pay more to the man developers even my experience and skill is high than them.)

Second, in all the companies I worked for, in the IT department it always consisted more men than women, about 7 to 3 ratio.  In 4 companies, I was the only female.  When promotion times came, it did not matter if I did a good job or not, my name was always at the bottom.  Especially when my son was an infant, that company told me that was the reason they could not promote me because I was not as flexible as the other developers because I had to leave work at 5 to pick up my son at daycare.

IT is very competitive, the technology changes all the time.  Men may have all the time to study the new technology, but for me when I get home, I start my second job as the maid (cooking, cleaning...)  I try to keep up and try to read a lot of books, but by 10:30pm, I am dead tired after working 2 jobs.

This is my experiences.


Post #344540
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 8:04 AM
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Go Girl!  My experience is similar ... great with math, science and spacial reasoning.  I've been in the computer industry since 1979 (mag card units) and have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of technology.  My career has spanned everything from being a Word Perfect Macro Queen to developing legal billing programs to data conversion to integration specialist to DBA, database developer and data warehousing architect.  I even had my own consulting business for several years.

One of the things I like most about computer technology is that it is always changing ... no room for boredom here as long as you are curious and have a desire to learn.

The issue with women in technology may very well be the guidance counselors within the school systems directing them to typically more "womenly" careers.  I do wish there were more women in technology ... it would be nice to see more of them at the User Group meetings!

My son graduated from Penn State with an Engineering Science degree and got his master's from MIT.  He has been an executive at Cisco and now works in management at Google.  Needless to say my IT career has also influenced him.  If he had been a daughter I would have encouraged her to follow the same path.



Post #344546
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 8:19 AM
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I totally agree with Kathi's assesment! We need middle school and high school courses in programming to enhance our science, math, and business curriculums.  I believe our children have become 'immune' and see computers as a means to an end.  Much like seeing a plane or rocket launch - they take the technology for granted. Combine that immunity with the instant rewards of video games and consumerism; few kids have the patience nor see the advantage of learning what's under the covers. We can only generate new excitment with today's adolescents if we focus on the latest technologies in the classroom.

Post #344551
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 8:44 AM
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Based on watching the trend for 20+ years, of everything, I feel the most obvious reasons are not so obvious - free choice in your occupation and observation of what that occupation impacts. I say this becaus I have 3 daughters all in HS presently. Each excels at computers but has opted not to go into IT in any way shape or form based on these 2 criteria.

The first point, free choice, is fueled by the information age in providing information about different career options available and where they will lead and your quality of life. They have grown up in the infomation age and are using it to their advantage.

Now a bit about the second point. They have watched myself and friends and been a part of our lives and seen the type of comittment needed at times. There is usually a chorus in unison of "that sucks" quite often. So, they know what it is about almost first hand. This is learning by the observation of others.

We all have to remember that "The only constant in life is change".

Rudy Komacsar
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Post #344559
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 9:18 AM


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That's awesome to hear about your friend!  I'm a female geek and proud of it   I'd love to go back for my masters in Software Engineering (great program nearby for it), but I need to convince my husband that we can handle it if I go back to school.  From what everyone tells me, my love of computers started when one of my uncles let me (back when I was like 2 or 3, I think) sit with him while he was on his computer.  I don't remember that but I do remember getting excited about them later on and really picking up programming as if it were something natural to me. 

While in high school, I picked up more skills and looked into my future in computing. (So much for my original dream of becoming a clarinetist in the Cleveland Orchestra!)  I knew that the computing industry would be male-dominated and definitely a challenge.  However, I accepted that and didn't let it intimidate me.  To this day, I do what I do because I love it and I don't let the naysayers who think females don't belong in computing bother me - they don't know what they're talking about.

Post #344579
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 10:11 AM


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Besides me, it seemed all the women replied on this thread love their jobs and would encourage their children to major in computer science.

So why did the data show women leaving IT?

I was good at Math too when I was at high school so I chose IT when I went to college.  I started as COBOL programmer, then database developer in both Oracle and SQL Server, now I work as data warehouse developer.  I love programming but it is the IT or company culture that makes me sick.

Maybe it was my bad luck that I never had a good job or good boss, I got burnt at all my job.  I got bullied at one of my job by a male DBA and his brother.  No one took me serious when I was the only woman in the group.   I would not complain if all the male developers were talented.  But I had to work twice as hard to show my skills to the management just to compare with the average or even low skill male developers.  Still the company would value them more.

Although money is not everything, but I am still angry why man earn more than woman at the same position.

At my company, all the upper management of IT are all men.  That's it, I am going to quit today !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Post #344592
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 10:25 AM
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It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the culture or sexism or the fact that being the only woman working in large groups of men really has some distinct downsides, particularly if you're unfortunate enough to be young/pretty.

Bless you, Grasshopper, for saying what was in my head for me.

I've been in IT for a while now, and often it's a combination of rampant sexism and a lack of understanding that life > work that keeps me from going any further with it.
Post #344596
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 10:29 AM
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By genetics I wasn't making a sweeping generalisation, far from it.

From the 16 years I have worked in IT the people most suited to IT are geeks.  I think that some people are predisposed to become geeks (anyone else remember doing the maths for other kids at Primary in your head?) and some aren't.  There are lots of geeky professions - and IT is one of them.

And IT employers like younger geeks because they are often unattached and prepared to do masses of free work.

It just so happens, from my experience, that the majority of geeks are male. 

Unless IT changes to be less geek-friendly then it won't attract enough non-geeks; and regardless of gender that is a big issue.

You don't have to be a geek to work in IT; but it helps!

Post #344600
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 1:48 PM
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As a woman in IT since the 80's, I can confirm that there is a lot of sexism, and it does impact the paycheck as well as the work you are assigned and the recognition you get.  (My current company is the first exception to that rule of IT, which is one of the reasons I stay here!)

We're even seeing some of that sexism in this thread, even beyond the "females are more nurturing" (as though that had anything to do with programming talent or desire for a high-tech career).  And it wasn't just men who created computers and computing languages, although as usual they get the credit.  Go back and find out who wrote COBOL, the main business programming language for the last five decades.  I believe Commodore Grace was a WOMAN (and I can confirm this because I saw her speak prior to her death).  The original programmers were mostly women, because that's who knew how to type!  Go check out the history of computers - you may learn or re-learn some interesting facts about gender roles in early IT.

There are a huge number of assumptions related to IT that just are not true.  I don't think of myself as a "geek", nor do other people call me one.  I am an intelligent, well-read woman who enjoys working on her own cars and motorcycles - so some days I'm typing code with bandaides on my knuckles!  Give up the stereotypes, people.  Anyone with the skills can suceed in IT.  But young girls are not encourage, and in fact are still actively DIScouraged from taking on careers (or hobbies) in fields that are seen as male-oriented.  And a discouraged person will not perform well (yes, that's a pun!)

Is any of this a reason that the numbers of women in IT are dropping?  Possibly, but until someone does a real study that asks women why they are leaving, or not entering the field, we won't know for sure what is driving it.  One of the reasons I chose IT as a career path was because it was a relatively new arena, with lots of growth potential.  Biopharm and Biogenetics are the next big up-and-comers, so it's not surprising that young people are more interested in those as careers.  But the drop in percentages of women entering IT indicates to me that there is probably more than one driver for the drop in numbers.  (And BTW, numbers ARE important - they are a way to measure what we experience.)

Here there be dragons...,

Steph Brown
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