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.
Wow, what a bunch of sexist nonsense, and from a woman to boot! "Women don't have time for reading after work", "Women don't like to talk about sports", etc. In my experience, women are just as able to do those things as men. Plus, they don't appreciate being grouped in one big mass, like they all think with one giant brain. In the future, try and avoid these stereotypes. Even if they're true for you, that doesn't make it anything but anecdotal. As a DBA, you should know the pitfalls of using a small sample as an indicator of the larger statistic.
Just an observation, here. Thinking in terms of zeros and ones, understanding what an address is, pixels, coordinates, being able to think in 3 dimensions, ability to come up with an algorithm for your program to use....
Back up a step and take a broader view. We joke and label people with these skills Geeks and Nerds because they apply them to computers. Aren't these just mechanical reasoning skills? The most successful surgeons, pilots and your favorite car mechanic shares many of these same skills. Are we worried about the number of women in these fields, too?
I'm thinking that the stuff we do in IT is just not that sexy anymore. Its not new and mysterious. People aren't jumping into this field to be cool anymore - there's probably something else now! What if the women who are still here are the ones that REALLY love this type of work and would persue it no matter what? Maybe the a portion of those who fell away from it got into it for other reasons, as Steve suggested in his article on this subject?
Personally, I LOVE this type of work. If the company I work for did not allow the flexibility my working mom life needed, I would look elsewhere. This is what I'm good at, this is where my experience is - which in turns provides well for my family.
I don't think IT is a turnoff to women. I think its just not the 'cool' field anymore. Those of us who are suited to and like this sort of work will stay in it or find our way to it.
Yes, it is a challenge to be a female in a male dominated profession. But like one person said - men are much simpler to deal with in many ways! But if you really like it, you'll figure it out.
Female sterotyping? I don't know.
I am the only woman in a 4 person DBA team here at my workplace. The development team consists of an additional 7 men. And yet, I don't feel awkward in my workplace because our entire department also includes Project managers and Business Analysts, 80% of whom are also women. There's only 28 people total in our department, but since we're all together in the same cramped office, I certainly don't feel like the only "IT woman".
I know for a fact that workplaces still exist where aging Baby Boomers still cling to the old traditional workplace structure. There's a good ol' boys network for promotions and such, the men refuse to do anything that's not in their job description and they grouse about the busineses not sticking to the 1950's principals of company loyalty. Such a work environment is hardly conducive to a woman coming in to work IT. I'm still amazed at the number of guys in my old jobs who think I can't do IT work because I'm too tiny to do a "big man's job" (because, apparently, lifting desktop computers or big monitors is what people still think of when you talk about IT work). And until we move completely from this sterotypical kind of work environment, women may feel underappreciated and refuse to come work in IT.
But there are also good work environments, such as the one I'm in now, where everyone is expected to pull their own weight regardless of gender or age. When we went interviewing for a new DBA last year, we received about 15 resumes, 5 of which we rejected out of hand because it was obvious the applicant was pulling his resume straight out of Books Online. Out of the 15, though, there was only one woman applicant. I would like to have hired her, but she, like many of the male applicants, had Paper Cert Syndrome. I mean, you know something is wrong when you ask (in an interview) "How do you do a point-in-time restore to a database in Simple Recovery mode" and no one knows the answer is "You can't. You can only restore to the last backup".
Maybe there is something to psychology of the thing, but I'm more inclined to think otherwise. (See my next post).
I think the most part of the decline is due simply to the effects of the Tech Bust. We all know there were tons of people in IT that shouldn't have been in IT, but they got high paying jobs because bodies were needed. I would be willing to wager if you looked at the percentages of men Paper-Certs to women Paper-Certs, the numbers were approximately the same. It just looks bad by straight numbers (not percentages) because there always has been a lower percentage of women in the IT workplace. Also, a lot of good people lost their jobs when their employers went bust and weren't able to get back into the workplace immediately. People with non-IT work on their resume between then and now tend to be skipped over for most IT jobs because potential employers thing those people were the P.C.s even if they weren't.
Now we have a situation where a lot of people were burned by the layoffs and the bankrupted companies. Are they telling their children to find more stable careers? Some of them probably are. But I also believe a lot of those college students remember what happened when Mom & Dad lost their jobs and have decided on their own that they don't want to risk it. Yes, the trend for women in IT is declining, but I believe it's only a matter of time until the woman start figuring out there are some good IT jobs out there that don't require hanging out in the good ol' boys' stable, being on call 24/7, or getting grubby doing IT support in a dirty warehouse environment. And I truly believe that Database Administration, Business Intelligence and DataWarehousing are some of the best jobs a woman can get. They tend to be more flexible than the Help Desk types of jobs, and, in my opinion, a lot less stressful.
And notice the article didn't mention anything about whether or not the number of male IT college students was decreasing, increasing or remaining stable. I believe there are a lot of people, male and female, trying to avoid the "hot potato" of an IT career right now. But it will get better. After all, computers, networks and databases don't seem to be going anywhere for quite a while.
In my opinion, the main reason young women are not flocking to technical jobs today is that there are many other career paths open to women now. When I entered the field there were very few careers outside of teaching and nursing where a woman was almost treated equally based on job performance. I say "almost" because the very large company I worked for in the 1970s had a policy of adding 10% to the salary of men (because they had families to support).
While many things have changed, it is still more difficult being a woman on a technical team. It is still a "boys club" in many ways. The small technical company I am currently associated with has men's golf outings and men's poker games and other socializing where women are not invited. Also, it isn't an eight hour a day job. Some work simply has to be done off-hours, and that is more difficult for women who have small children. However, there are ways to stay in the field if you love it. There is flex time; there is telecommuting; there is independent contracting.
If I had to do it all over again, would I enter the field? Absolutely. I often marvel that I have been paid so well for doing something that is so much fun.
Personally I'd love to see more women in this field. However in Toronto (where I live and work), there's been newspaper articles about high school computer classes completely filled with men leading to believe that it's almost a lost cause. Even my wifes idea of fixing a computer-related problem is scream my name as loud as she can.
I agree with you that it's great to work with guys but once in a while having a women confident enough to "hang with the boys" would be a refreshing change.
Well written article & hope it turns into a big wake-up call!
*Edit for spelling
It is true that there are not as many women in technology as men. I believe you make some valid arguments on why this may be true.
However, being a man let me give you my perspective. Not every man in the technology field is here because he loves his job. I am in technology because it provides for my family. I like my Senior DBA Position good enough, but there are other jobs in other fields, I would enjoy more. However, they would not provide for my family as well.
I try to keep my life in balance. My job is my 5th priority in life. My priorities are in this order: God, Family, Myself, Career path, Job. For me, I stand on the promise of the Bible, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”. This teaches me, that if I place God first in my life, He will bring balance to my life. In my experience, He has done just that. God moved me from a job, where I was working much overtime and had an inflexable schedule to a postion where I am a Senior Database Analyst with a good salary that works 7 am-3:30 pm, with no overtime. With these hours, I am able to devote time to God, be with my family, and pursue other interests.
In my opinion, if someone gets out of the technology field, because of overbearing demands, God bless them. There are more important things in life than a fast past technology career.