Would I encourage my daughter to pursue a career in IT?

  • Lynda Rab

    SSChasing Mays

    Points: 657

    Sonogram

    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?



    Lynda Rab
    www.sqlpass.org

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 720491

    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!

  • 5409045121009-7368

    SSCoach

    Points: 15740

    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".

  • EdVassie

    SSC Guru

    Points: 60274

    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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  • Rani Shoura

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 219

    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

    Hold on hold on soldier
    When you add it all up
    The tears and marrowbone
    There's an ounce of gold
    And an ounce of pride in each ledger
    And the Germans killed the Jews
    And the Jews killed the Arabs
    And Arabs killed the hostages
    And that is the news
    And is it any wonder
    That the monkey's confused

  • Erin-295134

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 197

    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.

  • MattieNH

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 7463

    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

  • Someguy

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2207

    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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  • Mike in Michigan

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 285

    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!

     

  • Tatsu

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 7824

    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.

    [font="Tahoma"]Bryant E. Byrd, BSSE MCDBA MCAD[/font]
    Business Intelligence Administrator
    MSBI Administration Blog

  • Lynda Rab

    SSChasing Mays

    Points: 657

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

    I think you can have a promising career... but people will have to make their own opportunities.  I know a lot of people that sit back and wait for good things to happen to them in their careers... and surprise, surprise they don't!   Others that put themselves out there, take the risks, learn as much as they can, get involved with the community and make opportunities for themselves can develop very rewarding careersl...  (be they male or female!) 



    Lynda Rab
    www.sqlpass.org

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 720491

    I wouldn't get too down on IT as a roller coaster career. You think marketing in the corporate world is different? Sales?

    Maybe lawyers and CPAs have a good growth industry, but that's a rat race in and of itself. If you're not trying to become a partner, it can be a limiting factor. If you are you work more than IT.

    I have friends in health care (admin/insurance) and that's up and down. Doctors? Insurance has caused innumerous headaches and that's not easy, not to mention lots of work. Any corporate area is likely to get layoffs as well.

    IT is not much different than most white collar jobs. It's a strange blend of grunt work, much like blue collar jobs, with the demands and pressures of white collar ones.

  • Kathi Kellenberger

    SSChampion

    Points: 11811

    My daughter, a chemist, is so good with the software she uses at work that I keep telling her she is going to get recruited by their IT dept.  I hope that I would encourage my kids into any field that they were interested in.  I have to confess that I discouraged my daughter from going into pharmacy, though.  But, I really don't think she would have been happy in it. It's not a good career for creative people.

    Nice job Lynda! I hope Steve can recruit you into writing some articles!

    Aunt Kathi Data Platform MVP
    Author of Expert T-SQL Window Functions
    Simple-Talk Editor

  • David-386780

    Newbie

    Points: 7

    Absolutely not! I do not encourage any young person to seek a career in IT.

    With nearly 2 decades of active business use of modern computing technology, do you realize how hard it still is to convince Chief Executives to see IT as profit centers?

    If a young person wants to "start" their career with a brief stint in IT, that is perfectly alright. But to pursue IT as a career — that makes no sense when you take the events of the last 10 years and extrapolate the current trend into the future.

  • Katie Walker

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 159

    I would have to agree with Steve. I would encourage my daughter to pursue whatever career she wanted. My parents encouraged my sister and me to pursue careers in the sciences and we are both very successful.

    I didn't pursue a career in IT. It sort of feel into my lap. Most of what I have learned has been on the job training. And each company wants something a little different. I have moved out of the production environment as well and into development. I think that outsourcing is a big part of why women are disappearing from IT. There are fewer jobs and still just as many qualified applicants. I often wonder what I would do if I weren't working in IT.

    I always laugh at the faces people make when I tell them I work in IT. They still have the image of men from the sixties in white shirts and black ties with really big glasses. The perception is that I spend all day hiding in my cube. Far from the truth. But I have to say, with IM, I can go all day and not see someone sitting 2 cubes away. I think we have lost the face to face contact which I think helps spark new ideas.

    I think a better question to ask would be what are we doing to encourage our daughters to pursue careers in science in general. What are we doing to expose them to the wonders of science and all of the careers that are involved. Computers have become such a part of our lives that I don't think it has quite the allure that it used to.

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