Where are the women in IT?
Continuing our conversation about women in the IT field and how we can support and increase the number of women choosing this career path. One very large part of the issue within IT is the verbiage and assumptions that are made every day by people engaged in a limiting dialog. For instance how many times have you heard the phrase “IT guy” or “work with their guys in IT”. Language has been shown to be one of the most powerful tools in our daily lives and consistently there is a bias towards the male or HE in the IT world. When asked about a project inevitably an engineer or peer will say “what do he think” or “what does he need” when referring to someone managing IT. And when it is a woman in charge it seems a correction needs to be made multiple times …”she would like this” or “she needs that”. It’s infuriating and psychologically has an effect on how people perceive roles and what they choose to pursue. Even most recently when describing a Women in IT event I attended with 200 other women in technology someone made a joke about the speakers presenting. “Were they all men?” To which I responded no they were all women VP or CIO’s who ran massive national and international companies. The awareness of sexist speech or limiting dialog is a major step towards additional success for women in technology.
From the pool of participants inside a recent qualitative study many of the women felt that their peers will work for less money than their male counterparts. It has been shown time and again that an infinitely small percentage of women vs. men either negotiate or demand the salary their positions deserve. This I think would lead to frustration of women who feel they are not getting paid equally for the same work. However 80% of this studies participant states they are satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current situations. It appears with opportunity for advancement or equal opportunity come’s a state of satisfaction. That doesn’t seem to be a shocking conclusion. What is shocking is the lack of encouragement, mentorship and leadership among women to help one another enter or stay in a very challenging and lucrative field.
So where do we go from here? The biggest step is early engagement with young women and girls. The messages being sent to them from career counselors, mentors and even teachers need to be one of opportunity and desirability. There is a whole world inside IT beyond dark rooms with people in cubes banging out code and never interacting with others. (And if that your thing then there is plenty of work.) If you’re a more outgoing individual there are a mass of jobs and careers that will offer interaction, challenge and advancement inside of IT. I encourage everyone to engage at a level that can be effective and encouraging for children from Kindergarten to High School. Show and share with them the passion of the IT industry and especially the young girls and women who have the aptitude or interest. You never know what the young women may go on to develop … maybe even change the world given the chance.
-Jennifer Smith, PEI