Careers in IT: Women Please Apply

Birgit Nazarian, Writer, specializing in IT and HR | 2/15/2012 | 27 comments

Birgit Nazarian
Many of the biggest technology-related companies are reaching out and hoping to snag a few good men... and women. With the Society of Women Engineers preparing to host the NCWIT Summit on Women and IT, leaders in the industry are hoping their strategies bring in more women now and in the coming years.

Why are they trying so hard? According to a recent report from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, "if current trends continue, by 2018 the information technology industry will only be able to fill half of its available jobs." Since 2001, the ratio of women to men majoring in computer science has been dropping significantly. To help avoid a continued, ever-increasing shortage of talent, we must figure out how to persuade more women and members of other diverse groups to choose careers in IT.

Many institutions and think tanks have been collecting a lot of interesting data suggesting that diversity is good for innovation and overall success. Diverse, mixed-gender teams appear to be better problem solvers than single-gender teams. I don’t want to split hairs with anyone about differences between the sexes, and I’m not Camille Paglia. But let’s just say more diversity in thinking due to different backgrounds and experiences creates a certain je ne sais quoi.

So how do the NCWIT and its many friends in the IT industry (like Microsoft, IBM, and Google) propose to convince women to consider a career in technology? One way is with partnerships that create initiatives in corporations and schools all over the country. They start with a big idea: showing more women of all ages how a career in IT can be a good choice and how they can become part of the industry. To achieve this goal, they formed the Pacesetters fast-track program. Its goal is to add 1,000 women to the IT professional ranks this year.

According to Campus Technology, schools and businesses participating in Pacesetters are already reporting progress. The University of Virginia expects its female computing graduates to increase 10 percent to 25 percent. Google says it has doubled its female engineer interns, and the University of California, Santa Cruz says 40 percent more women are majoring in computer science.

It’s obvious that lots of emphasis is placed on how to get women into technology from the high school and college levels, but what about retaining the women code warriors already in IT? This is just as important, if not more so. I personally know three women who abandoned IT after their Y2K work and went on to very different careers. I suspect it was because of burnout, frustration, or both.

But technology has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. So have work environments -- for the better, I believe. IT is a great place for anyone to start or revive a career, including women. The benefits can be very attractive: more flexibility, transferrable skills that are in demand, and higher salaries than most other careers requiring a bachelor’s degree. And lastly, with the growing importance of technology in our daily lives, this profession offers more prestige and even a chance to make a difference in the world.

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mejiac   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/29/2012 4:23:53 PM
Woman in IT
Very Interesting Article.

It's funny... for my past jobs my bosses have all been woman, very talented and very professional, so it goes to show that I think one reason for the lack of participation on the womans side is perception.

Many woman are driven away from an IT career either by social pressure (in my mind at least, since most of us are geeks at heart) or by not knowing the huge benefits surrounding an IT degree.

I do agree that having a diversed environment does create sinergy, does providing more robust solutions.

I think educational institutions should focus on better marketting IT careers, showing more focus on the benefits side, and the fact that most young entreprenours belong to the IT world.
impactnow   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/23/2012 9:52:22 AM
Re: IT is cool

Birgit I agree that it is hard at times for women to be accepted in IT I became my IT based marketing career in the 90s as well and it is very different today. I think you have to be somewhat tenacious to succeed in any career that is primarily a mainstay of men but it can be done. I think t that having young children is difficult in many professions it is very rewarding but also very draining, especially in today's society where families are separated an there is not a grandma or aunt to help out. I think if companies offered women with young families more flexible work arrangements it would benefit them long term and short term.

Syerita Turner   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/22/2012 8:21:29 PM
Careers in IT: Women Please Apply
I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I once was a woman in IT. I obtained my Bachelor of IT degree and quickly went into the wonderful male world of IT. Just to find out that I was not cut out for the job as my personality couldn't cut it. What I mean by that is that I was too nice and not bitchy as most women in IT that I encountered were. I felt as though I had to change how I was and work twice as hard to prove myself one because I am a woman and two because I am a minority woman who is smart and talented. 

I say that to say it is very important for women to go into IT and I hope more women take that step. However, the world will never be ready for women to come into male dominated fields and take over because that is what really happens when us women focus on such a tedious and hard career goal. We take the bull by the ears and surpass all of whoever was working there and quickly become the enemy. I think that a shift in mindset will need to happen before women of my caliber and expertise decide to go for more satisfying and less stessful careers. 

I hope the men don't jump on me for this one but I had to tell it like it is. 

 

 
bnazarian   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/21/2012 10:20:34 AM
Re: IT is cool
@singlemud, I agree that works best, which I why I really hope that enterprises who aren't already enlightened accept reality and give employees at least flexible hours and the option to telecommute some days. It's not going to hinder productivity, it can only help I think. IT is a great place to be, it's where I'd be and maybe where I will go in the future. So many good things about it. 
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singlemud   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/21/2012 10:00:23 AM
Re: IT is cool
@bnazarian, that is very true. Another problem is that when kids come to the school age,  There will be other hectic jump in, such as after school activities, driving the kids around, or school volunteers.  usually, some one in a household should have a easy and flexiable job.
bnazarian   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/21/2012 9:44:58 AM
Re: IT is cool
@singlemud, I want to point out though that it's really just a short time in a woman's life where it's more difficult because of raising kids. Once kids are school age (age 5 or 6) there is more time to devote to work. Whether it's work from home or in an office setting. So no one should give up or be discouraged if they decide to have children. I know a lot of career women who share the child rearing with husbands who stay home part time or telecommute. It's a little hectic at times but doable especially as easy as it is now to communicate with management and other team members no matter where you are. 
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singlemud   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/20/2012 3:09:49 PM
Re: IT is cool
Great point. IT world changes so fast. Most IT guys have to learn the new technology every day, and work late to debug code.  It will be hard for women who are tied much more to home and feed the baby.
WaqasAltaf   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/19/2012 9:43:48 AM
Re: Working Environment
@Birgit

Reading discussion about cool and comfortable environment to work at, I thought what else would be cooler than to work at home. What is trendy in many industries esp. IT, is that home computing concept is widely spreading. Something for the housewives to consider. Also young high school girls, who eye themselves ending up housewives (by choice) and simultaneously also want to make a career in something with nice perks, should consider IT as an ideal career. With expected shortages being predicted, this can be another motivator for them as pay scales would tend to be reasonable if not high in the times to come. 
Steel2179   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/18/2012 7:28:28 PM
Re: Working Environment
Good point.  I think that it is important that you feel like you are working on team....that everyone is advancing toward a bigger goal.  It is a lot to drop a young woman into that environment and ask her to not only contribute, but make her own place on the team.  So much of what we do professionally is connected to what we do socially.  I think mentoring and programming help young women navigate professionally down the road.
bnazarian   Careers in IT: Women Please Apply   2/17/2012 11:37:09 AM
Re: IT is cool
@impactnow, it's getting better. I think the solution is make women feel more welcome and women should not shy away from doing what they really love to do. But I admit it's hard on both counts.

When I was trying to learn programming I had a group of friends already working in IT, plus people in the IT department where I worked and classmates in my programming class. I picked everyone's brain. There were guy friends in IT who were perfectly nice to me before I started taking a programming class and then as soon as I asked more intelligent questions of them, a couple of them insinuated I wouldn't make it through the class without help from male classmates.

I had male classmates offer to do my homework for me. I know it was painful for them to see me struggle but I was proud I did it all by myself. At work and other friends in IT were wonderful. They encouraged my learning, gave me resources, quizzed me for my upcoming tests and eventually I got invited to help out on projects and do more programming work at work.

Definitely I felt that for some men it was a problem for me to move into IT and a few women even too. That didn't dissuade me from pushing myself. I had a supportive boss and enough consultants encouraging me to keep going but another reason I think women at least in the 90's were less likely to stay in IT was the family thing.

Once I had kids, I couldn't tool around with Linux or stay late to learn Java programming. I was very excited how far I had come, but I was exhausted and drained. Now I kind of regret having dropped out, but it was nearly impossible for me to continue learning and advancing when I had babies and small kids. Some women make it work, I couldn't. Maybe if I could have telecommuted with today's technology part fo the time though, I might have been able to stay where I was. For that reason, I think it's better than ever before for women.  
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