I am a woman in the world of technology. I've been among the "geeks" for about 15 years. I've had a great run so far; a very respectable salary, promotions, respect from my peers and flexible bosses. If I knew what I know now, would I have gone for that degree in Engineering? Would I have chosen a career where my peers would usually be men?
That question has come to my mind often over the years. In the beginning of my professional life, I worked on a team of 15 - four of us were women. We were developers and traveled quite a bit. We worked long hours and had to stay committed to our jobs. I've watched the number of women dwindle on that team to now, where it is comprised of only men.
Where did the women go?
I've stayed in touch with many of the women in my early days and they've scattered from their highly technical positions of the past. They've made transitions into roles of Program Manager, Project Manager, Planners, and administrative roles. Or, for some, they've been able to leave the work force and become full-time moms. A few of them moved into the world of Real Estate, supposedly a great place for women.
See, a career in technology is often more demanding and trying for women. We have a slightly stronger pull towards our children. We wear guilt when we have to travel for our jobs or work at midnight on Saturday night for a system cut-over. We don't always have husbands that understand and support us working late and traveling, often with other men.
We feel pressure from the men who relate to each other on a different level, sometimes making us feel like we've crashed a party. We worry about what we wear, being too "girlie" for the guys. And if we made a change in our appearance, there may not be a woman at work to even notice it. We may not get invited to the bar after work and if we go, we might wish we hadn't when the conversation is all about sports. And let's not forget the battle to keep up with technology - we have less time (and often less desire) after work to read trade mags and research what's new.
We're outnumbered and it can get a little old. We don't want to leave our kids for that business trip. We don't want to work late or on the weekends. And in the end, we're often better suited to run meetings and put schedules together. We're good at that - we multi-task well. Every woman I know that has transitioned out of technology says the same thing, "I'm so much happier in my new role".
So, why aren't the college-aged women joining me in the world of technology? I don't know. Maybe they see things more clearly than I did in college. Maybe their moms, aunts and friends mom's have scared them away. For me, this was the best career path I could have taken. I've learned how to be "with the guys" pretty well and I usually don't feel excluded. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I try to not let my gender enter into any internal struggles. Men are simpler and sometimes easier to work with, as well.
For me it was the right choice. For the other women I know who've left this techno-world, the pressure was great and not worth it at the end of their day.