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Would I encourage my daughter to pursue a career in IT? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 3:41 PM
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That is the question I have been mulling over since I was forwarded two articles on Women in IT: "Why the Number of Women in IT is Decreasing" and "The Vanishing IT Woman - System i Women Respond". As the titles suggest, these articles discuss the fact that the number of women choosing to study computer related courses in college or university is decreasing at a much higher proportion than males and the fact that many women are leaving the IT field. They outline why these trends are developing, the dangers of these trends continuing and talk about ways the trends can be diverted.


There was much talk about males and females having different skill sets that are both needed in IT… Well, I can't say that I have found it to be true! I don't give much credence to the 'women are better listeners, analysts and relationship builders' and 'men are better at complex mental visualization and abstract thought' argument. I think that a successful IT team is comprised of individuals with different, complementary skill sets, personalities and motivations, be they men or women.


I don't believe that skills sets or personality types are stereotypically male or female, but I do think that in many cases what motivates men and women is often different. Recent changes in the IT industry might have made it less appealing to women and these changes may be why more women are leaving IT and young women are deciding not to pursue an IT career.


The IT industry has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Since the crash of the tech market, IT has been hit with lay-offs, downsizing, increased competition for fewer jobs, fewer high paying jobs, slashes to training budgets and out-sourcing. There are less motivators for both males and females to enter or stay in the tech market, but possibly a few less motivators for females. Women are often the primary caregivers in a family with conflicting priorities, especially when they have young children. I feel that most women are looking for, among other things, a flexible, fairly secure and stable environment to work in.


Now back to my original question: "Would I encourage my daughter to pursue a career in IT?" My initial response was "no" which left me with another question: Why did I say "no"? I have been extremely happy and successful with my career in IT and am now in the enviable position of having several career opportunities available to me. I have never encountered problems relating to the fact that I was female and I have never thought that the fact I was a female would hinder me in any way in achieving whatever goal I set for myself. My career also gave my financial independence at a young age.


After thinking about it for a while longer, I changed my answer to "yes" thinking that the pros of an IT career might still outweigh the cons for both males and females. I think I would recommend it, provided that my daughter had the aptitude and characteristics that I think would improve her chances of balancing a successful IT career and happy family life. Some of the key characteristics I would be looking for would be confidence, adaptability, the ability to learn quickly and good organizational skills.


From an employer's perspective, if they want to attract and retain more females in IT, they should make the work environment more flexible, stable and family friendly.


Would you encourage your daughter to pursue an IT career? Have you noticed a drop in the number of women in IT? Do you think doing something about the declining number of women is IT is important? What can employers and educators do to attract more women into IT?

Post #344703
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 3:48 PM


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Just for the record, I'd encourage any of my kids to go into IT if they wanted to. In fact, I'd like to think that I encourage them to do what they want, regardless of income potential or difficulty in pursuit.

Thanks for the great editorial, Lynda!







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Post #344705
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 3:08 AM
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A few echos may get in the way of "From an employer's perspective, if they want to attract and retain more females in IT, they should make the work environment more flexible, stable and family friendly".


Post #344761
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 3:12 AM
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I don't have any kids, which could make me more objective or less relevant.  Anyway, my view from living in England is...

The recommendation I make to friend's teenage children is that IT is a good place to be, but if you want a career doing IT then look more at the hardware side than software.  Better still if you plan on going up the management path, look on IT as a stage to get skills and experience before moving on.

Although there will always be highly-paid niche markets for various software skills in developed counties, I think the trend to move software development and administration to lower-cost economies will increase in the years ahead.  This means that trying to make a career in software in developed countries will be harder and less lucrative than it used to be.  On the other hand, fixing boxes has to be done where the box physically sits, and the developed world will continue to have boxes.

Maybe the reason less women are entering IT is they feel there are more rewarding choices elsewhere.

Finally, I recommend to any teenager that the best way to make serious money is to be an entrepreneur.  If you develop a mindset that can look at a situation and work out how to make a turn, you are likely to end up either seriously wealthy or bankrupt.  If you do well, then the wealth you generate moves the economy forward and keeps the likes of me in a job.



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Post #344762
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 4:00 AM
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Dear Lynda,

Nice editorial, I wouldn't encourage my daughter to IT technical career at any cause, every career has a pre-created profile in mind like: miners are tough, marketing people are cheaters,nurses are kind, and so the list goes on.., and finally IT technicians are ISOLATED NERDS with only 0's and 1's in the head

So this pre-created image of an IT person is more harmful for a girl than a boy (men are OK to be idiots-nerds)

about having less ladies in the IT field in our region(Middle East) it is so much common, as an oldfashioned community, girls are not dedicated (some time not allowed to be dedicated) to there careers like what IT pursuing should

Which all sweet little angels to have better life, than what we had


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Post #344770
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 6:14 AM
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I have been in the field for about 5 years. In even this short time, I have witness many changes. When I started in the field, I would say the distribution of men to women was roughly 40% women, 60% men. Now, I think that number is below 10% women.

What I hear, and have experienced, is that the increasing pressure on IT has driven many women out. Products are expected to be delivered quicker and cheaper that before, which in my experience has equated to long hours, with fewer programmers and much more work for everyone. Additionally, the 24/7 world we live in puts many IT people on-call or on some sort of on-call rotation. There can also be a good deal of time required outside of work trying to keep up with current releases and new technology. The salaries seem to have gone down, for entry to mid level IT professionals. When you factor in the additional time spent on and off the job, the hourly rate in the is field has gone down tremendously. All of these factors equate to less time with loved ones and more time on the job for less pay.

With there being such a great dichotomy in the workplace, the problem perpetuates itself. In my last two positions, I have literally been one of five or so women in shops of hundreds of men. Even for a strong, confident personality as myself, this can sometimes be intimidating. I have only had 1 mid level woman manager in five years, and that was breif, before she too left the field. I have never personally been in a shop with a high-level woman manager.

I am a woman, and I love my job in IT. I did however, just get out of the production environment and into the development environment because I felt my quality of life was slipping with the amount of time I spent being on-call. I also have no children, and a fairly self sufficient husband. If I had to throw in PTA, soccer mom, and daycare, I might re-think my choices.
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Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 6:29 AM
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I don't know if this has been addressed in the many posts on this topic, but the topic of outsourcing raises an interesting question.  Are women leaving IT, or are the jobs women are more likely to have leaving IT? 

Mattie




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Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 6:29 AM


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Good and thoughtful article, Lynda.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to say that I'm not recommending anyone get into the IT field unless they enjoy roller coaster rides with their careers. As I speak with older IT professionals, it seems that the last round of instabilities, though severe, aren't all that unusual for this field.

The problem is that computers are like automatic dishwashers. During a good economy, not only do you buy a dishwasher, but you get a nice one made out of stainless steel. In a bad economy, if you don't have a dishwasher, or if your dishwasher breaks, you wash the dishes by hand. 

Because of this factor, we always experience downcycles that are worse than the general economy. When it's time to tighten belts, "Dilbert pointy-haired managers" always look to those "geeks in IT" as a source of cuts. The last cycle was made even worse by the fact that someone figured out how to effectively run wires overseas. I have friends who, even in this booming economy have to constantly look over their shoulder - hence Lynda's note that it's not just jobs; it's good paying jobs that are wandering off.

If you're lucky enough to have a job in IT, find ways to make yourself one of the people that will be kept around during the next down-cycle, which is inevitable.



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Post #344799
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 7:31 AM
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The question that was posed was:  "Would you encourage your daughter to pursue an IT career?"

Long hours, working holidays and weekends, outsourcing, layoffs...

When I am asked, I always discourage young people from considering IT as a promising career. 

Does anyone really feel that IT has a promising future as a career field?  Be honest!

 

Post #344820
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 7:51 AM


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I am having an enjoyable IT career. Every job I have had has been better than the last. As far as encouraging my children, I'm with Steve. I will help them along any path they choose to follow. I'm sure that I will put some of my personal bias in my advice, particularly if they choose a field that does not cover basics such as health insurance and such. Overall, I just want them to be happy.

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