Where Did The Women Go?

  • Aiteh working in snow

    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.

  • I am a regular reader of the articles on this web site and at times i have posted some articles. Though i'm an Indian and being in the technology and working for many good companies around the world, i too would like to share my experience on this article from a different perspective, though not descriminating anyone. Do consider this as a view from a person who is writing about the different situations faced in different parts of the globe.

    Yes, i do agree with the fact that women at times play a good part in a team, as long as they are goal oriented and open towards sharing minds. But when i did my graduation, there were very less women and weren't interested in taking up technology as their support or as a profession in their life. As far as i think and as far as i have seen it's the sorrounding and the environment. Though sometimes, it is not enforced by anyone, certain examples of life make current generation to take a step back to balance their views with the kind of profession they are going to choose and the kind of family they are going to have. Yes i do agree with the fact that, many men and women think that having a happy family is more important than a job which might have the second priority in their life but they are willing to give up that. But for some, it's the profession which stands the highest priority in their life. It's an individual's priority and one can't be mastered everywhere. The key word behind all this is "Balancing" and during the process of balancing, one has to envisage the future. As far as i see, women have succeeded in most of the areas around the globe. But again, we have to look into their culture too. As far as women from countries such as Gulf countries, it doesn't allow them to mingle with men. There are other views such as how other fields of activities around the world has grown in recent years. As far as i think nowadays women have started thinking interms of different options available to them, which encourages their freedom. I have managed and worked with many teams with women from different cultures and from different countries. At the end of the day, the main reason for any women to be so self invloved lies in their self-interest and self-motivation without any obstacles. As long as that exists, nobody will ever give a second thought on their choices.

    The major change in selecting a career today has drastically changed and the way women get influenced from different sources has really taken a strong turn. Sometimes i think women have become more ralistic but on the other hand another question raises, "Does the realistic goals leading them to their successful path?"

  • I wish more women were in the DBA career. Here we have had only three DBA's that were female in the 20 years I have been here.  One moved to Florida about 15+ years ago, one transferred to our Data Warehouse team and another left on maternity leave and only came back as a consultant for our Purchasing dept.

  • 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).

    Brandie Tarvin, MCITP Database AdministratorLiveJournal Blog: http://brandietarvin.livejournal.com/[/url]On LinkedIn!, Google+, and Twitter.Freelance Writer: ShadowrunLatchkeys: Nevermore, Latchkeys: The Bootleg War, and Latchkeys: Roscoes in the Night are now available on Nook and Kindle.

  • 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.

    Brandie Tarvin, MCITP Database AdministratorLiveJournal Blog: http://brandietarvin.livejournal.com/[/url]On LinkedIn!, Google+, and Twitter.Freelance Writer: ShadowrunLatchkeys: Nevermore, Latchkeys: The Bootleg War, and Latchkeys: Roscoes in the Night are now available on Nook and Kindle.

  • 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.

  • Great job Atieh! Your editorial really sums up the challenges of women in IT and working moms. The "guilt factor" and pressure of trying to perform well at work and keep homelife running smoothly is tremendous.

    I don't think college age women look far enough ahead or understand these challenges so that it turns them away from IT. The seed for an IT career needs to be planted in the high school years. Likely, many may see IT as a tool rather than a career.

  • Love the editorial... a lot of good points. The points are general, I see myself in some of the points, but not all of them.

    Sports!! You hit the nail on the head. How do you get men to just shut up about sports already? They don't take a hint. Sports are probably my biggest problem working with men. I have no interest in any sport at all. I don't even care about the Cardinals, which is like heresy here in St. Louis.


  • I've worked at a small private college for 17 years. The pay isn't very competitive and there's little opportunity for advancement. However the environment is great, I love the work, it has lots of variety, and with rare exceptions, I don't work long hours. My point is that not every IT job requires long hours. When our children were young, my husband and I determined who could best afford to miss work for a sick child, it didn't always fall to me. I suspect that the larger issue is the expectation for some positions of long working hours. There are more people who are less willing to accept this, both men and women. Perhaps more women are able to explore other options more easily. Just my two cents.



  • 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.

    Brandie, I agreed with you. A lot of people (men or women) should not be in IT, it was so popular during 1995, almost everyone major in IT. My old company hired two new grad - one woman and one man. I told the woman to work on a program. She wrote the program and compiled it and told me it was done. No testing, no nothing. I asked her which college she came from and made sure I would not let me kid apply that college. The man graduated from a Ivy league and was too proud to work for a medium size company. His work was fine but he spent the whole day watching the stock market. Eventually both of them left the company within 6 months.

    During my career years, I met a lot of women and men were very good in programming and also met a lot of women and men who did not know how to spell computer.

    I think the IT job should go to the one who is capable to do the job regardless of the gender.

  • I cannot speak for all women in IT as I am the only one I have met in person.  In my experience as the only female developer at a systems firm, only female IT of any kind for corporate hq of a bank, and only IT female at a children's educational software company; some two traits have stood out markedly:

    1.  Everyone else(in my case, men) jumps at new ideas, problems, and technology.  My initial reaction is to analyze.  I break things down, review exsisting processes, symptoms, and projects before stirring them up.  I want to see if we can KEEP or USE or FIX, and how to best approach this new issue before I pull out the tool box, Doritos and caffeinated drink and crack open our current systems.  Because I start planning in my excitement (and I AM excited), as opposed to spiking a monitor, apparently this makes me less "one of the guys".  Yet this same trait is part of what makes me a solid developer. 

    2.  Say it with me friends, "I don't know".  IT people (again, men in my experience) tend to be incapable of saying those three simple words.  I say them constantly.  Of course, I always follow them with, "But I will find out."  No one on this planet knows every language and the solution to every scenario and we all know it.  Yet, it is taboo to admit it if you want to be considered for the next new project.  It amazes me almost every day how often people tend to gravitate towards the most inept of techs, even if that tech has proven himself so, simply because that tech puts on a show of superiority.

    In my experience, your geek rating is directly proportional to your ability to pretend you know everything and dig your hands into every project wether they belong there or not.   Because I am a logical data head, and perhaps because I am a woman, I am much less likely to act first, I always want to plan first. 

    I like to think that I am like other women.  I realize no one is created equal and I mean no disrespect to men in the field.  We're different, that's a fact.  Sometimes that difference helps (you'll WANT me planning your next move) and sometimes it hurts (You won't think of asking me to the bar to discuss our next project and you probably don't realize I was that shadow priest in Wow who kicked yer butt last night.  heh)

    I'm always their best DBA and they know it.  But when they get excited or pass out promotions, they forget I exist.  Why?  Because I forgot to spike that monitor again.  dangit!

    Even if I am all wet and my experiences are exclusive only to myself, the fact remains that IT is currently a man's world and a woman needs to be able to tough it out and learn to fit in or she won't be happy here.  And, I don't really blame the men for that.  I mean, I bet male nurses have a rough road too.


    Kindest Regards,


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