On women in IT
In response to Karen Price of E-Skills UK, who said the IT industry must find new ways of attracting women to the sector
I think a large part of the problem is the difficulty of obtaining qualifications after you leave school. A woman with a family, looking to have a more "professional" career or who attended a school which did not teach computer science, cannot later ditch her job to return to education or fork out a small fortune for certification.
An ideal thing would be some kind of mother-and-child IT training where both gain from the shared experience.
The industry should pay less attention to what certificates you hold, and more to whether or not you can do the job.
It has been said that not all IT graduates go into IT careers. By the time a woman finishes her degree, she is looking for a career. She is also looking to her future.
If she thinks far enough ahead, she will avoid IT because of the hours and the loss of a career when she takes any kind of break to have children. If she does not think that far ahead and goes into IT, her first career break is likely to be her last.
Technology refresher courses just do not happen. Everyone wants to sack staff with out-of-date skills and hire new people with the right skills without having planned for that need.
If she does get back in, it will be as the trainee programmer or on the helpdesk with nothing like the opportunities or salary levels.
"Free" IT training is either of the full-time college variety or the basic skills level of ECDL. How do you fit retraining into a timeframe which includes earning a living, looking after the children and trying to progress a career? The concentrated stuff is very expensive.
Downsizing after the millennium and outsourcing work abroad are making jobs both more scarce and more unattractive to mothers.
Companies have no incentive to have family-friendly policies and that is what we need to address. The hidden statistic is that we may also be losing family-oriented men in the same numbers.
Good luck with getting women involved. IT has been operating under the old boys club for the past 20 years militantly keeping women out. To fight that you are gonna have to go for the source.
PR manager, Amulet Development
I retired two years ago (early) from a career that ended with 12 years working in my social service agency as a technical support person. I concur with the article in that IT is often seen by young women as lacking in creativity but I do believe that the internet is changing most of that.
I cannot say for sure why women tend to leave IT careers at the rate mentioned but I think I might know at least part of the reason. During my tenure most men were supportive to me as a professional. However, it would take only one who was threatened by women in his area of expertise to turn my joy with my work into hell.
These men worked hard to make the workplace hostile to women. As I stayed in my position and watched them move on I would learn of how they had tried to undercut my knowledge and expertise. The men who revealed this were apologetic that they were not more supportive to me.
Part of their inability to stand up to the bullies was that IT can be very insular. There is so much to know that specialisation has to occur. This also contributes to instances where one person can, with a few words, trash another person's expertise. It happens often between men as well but they tend to be raised to be more competitive. The long-standing belief that women lack the innate abilities needed to do technical work tends to work against us.
I do not have any real suggestions for improvements. We do need to train our women to be more resilient and darned stubborn like me.
This was first published in April 2003