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So what do you think?

When it comes to technology, female consumers can’t get too mad when they surf a Web site that’s hard to navigate or their cell phones aren’t designed to cradle easily between their shoulder and ear.

Why? Because there’s a high probability there were few if any women on the technical team that designed that Web site or wireless phone.

Women have not been flocking to the profession of information technology, even though women are bigger consumers of technology than men.

In fact, the number of women in the IT field and those who are heading to college to pursue technology degrees is actually on the decline.

Renee Davias, a software-applications director at a New York-based law firm, sees this every day. Often she wishes there were more women in her IT group and in the profession overall. One of only two women in an 11-member development team, she likes working with her male colleagues but believes another female or two could help the team dynamic.

"With the men sometimes, they’re trying to see who can pee the highest on the hydrant," she says, speaking metaphorically, of course. "Women are much more matter-of-fact, more collaborative."

Davias, who is also president of the Rochester Chapter of the Association of Women in Computing, is doing what she can encourage women to get into the technology field, even speaking to Girl Scouts about the profession.

But her desire to have more women in the technology field may have to remain a dream, at least for the foreseeable future.

Women control more than 83 percent of all consumer purchases, including 66 percent of home computers, and they outpace men when it comes to buying consumer electronics, but they hold only 27 percent of computer-related jobs, according to a study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

And from 1983 to 2006, the study found, the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded to women plummeted to 21 percent from 36 percent.

"It’s been a steady decline since the 1980s," says Lucy Sanders, CEO of the center. "The participation of women in IT has never been strikingly high, but now it’s getting worse."

What’s driving the decline, explains Sanders, is the way computer science is taught in schools and how society depicts the profession "as geeky and nerdy." There’s a disconnect between the technical and how we use technology every day, she adds.

"One of the biggest criticisms of technology today is that user interfaces are poor," explains Hardgrave, a professor of information systems at the University of Arkansas. Men, he says, largely don’t do a great job making the products easier to use because they concentrate more on the "geek" factor of technology. "I think women have more of an intuitive sense of designing interfaces."

Rebecca Berger, a senior programmer for Coastal Contacts, which sells vision-care products online, says she loves being one of the only women in her IT group.

"I don’t have to deal with the dynamics of working with women, dealing with cattiness and hormones," she says. But, she admits, "It would be nice to have someone to turn to sometimes who thinks like me."

Sanders, of the Center for Women and Information Technology, believes it’s all about diversity of thought and how diversity leads to a better product. "Anything created by a homogenous group isn’t as robust," she explains.

Suzanne Gordon, chief information officer of database software company SAS, is disheartened by the growing lack of women in IT.

She graduated from college in the 1970s, and she says there seemed to be more women going into the field back then. “There were no preconceived notions of who went into it,” she says.

But now, she adds, IT has come to be thought of as a field for men, especially when it comes to the more technical jobs, where women make up only 10 percent at SAS. On the business side, for things like payroll and accounts receivable, and on the help desk, there are plenty of women at the company, about 50 percent of the total.

“Where we have difficulty finding women is more on the hardware side, working more directly with machinery like UNIX and PC boxes and networks,” she says. And that’s a problem, she continues, because “the groups work much better when at least one woman is in the group. They bring a different perspective and viewpoint.”

In one particular team at SAS that has one woman, she explains, "The whole group is different when she’s not there. She has the personality. The guys in that group are more quiet nerds."

While companies cannot legally base their hiring decisions on gender, many IT hiring managers say they would be very open to considering qualified women, if only there were more of them.

"Really my goal is to hire enthusiastic, bright people, regardless of gender," says Heather Tipple, director of information systems at car-buying Web site Edmunds.com. "Unfortunately, I rarely see resumes from qualified female candidates. I probably see one resume from a female per every 10 I see from a man."

If you’re thinking about giving the IT field a try, the first thing to do is brush aside any preconceived notions you have about the profession. With computer and mathematical sciences jobs expected to grow faster than any other professional occupations through 2016, at nearly 25 percent, according to the Department of Labor, it may be dumb to rule the field out.

Barbara Viola, president of the Long Island Chapter of the Association of IT Professionals, offers some advice:

* Get an internship while in high school or college to figure out if it’s something you’d be interested in as a long-term career, and gain some experience.
* Many people start out in IT careers paying their dues in technical support, helping customers and employees with technical issues, and learning a lot in the process.
* There are lots of opportunities to work in IT at companies and organizations that are not computer companies. Civil service and government jobs can be a great place to be involved in cutting-edge technology.
* The one constant in IT is that employees need to constantly udatie their skills, so choose a path and find out what kind of certification you’ll need.

For career changers, Judy Murrah, senior director of Motorola IT, suggests playing up your expertise. If you have been in nursing, a company with a health care focus might love to benefit from your real medical world knowledge, she says.

Murrah sings the praises of a computer career for women because of the prevalence of family-friendly policies, opportunities to work from home, and even onsite day care at some larger firms like Motorola.

"And another thing I like about IT is it’s a very measurable job," she adds. "All that men and women stuff can be neutralized by that fact. Are you doing the job or not? Are the systems going in with quality or not?"


As you might imagine I have a few issues wit this article. heh. Not the least of which is the number of grammatical errors throughout.

The Information Services professor giving his opinion about how men and women think differently about UI is a hoot. As is the idea that the computer industry in general just isn't marketed toward women correctly - that it still comes off as geeky and nerdy and women find that icky. Men and Women consumers in the broadest sense tend to have different focuses when they're getting online or shopping for items or whatever - doing activities and the motivation is what's different, okay. But good UI is good UI and a human factors specialist will come out with the same issues and suggestions for change no matter what their gender.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
there is so much stupid sexism in that, I want to just slap the shit out of SOMEONE.

however, good UI starts with VagRounded, and you know it.
Feb. 14th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
VagRounded is really the jumping point for a lot of things. VagRounded is completely good.
Feb. 13th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
It's nothing to do with men being more geeky an dtechnical. It's to do with most IT bods being geeky and technical. Because, y'know, programming and web design is technical and geeky, regardless of how intuitive and artsy the end product can be.
Feb. 13th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean to imply that it had anything to do with a broad gender difference. And I don't think the article was saying that (as a whole) either. The idea that IT companies need to just change their image in order to persuade more women into the field is looney and that's what I was really saying.

I know a lot of women in IT at all sorts of various levels. Trust me - this article is way off base. heh
Feb. 13th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, don't get me started on that. It's like the whole 'women in games' thing, or the "drug-addled cretins in libraries" thing. Maybe women aren't going into IT and some couch potato oafs aren't going to the library because they're just not bloody interested, and patronising the crap out of them won't change that.

Ahem. Excuse me, I've had a fairly aggravating few days.
Feb. 14th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
So, I need to tell our database/SQL person to learn VB6 and start writing forms, so that women can use the software better? I think she'd punch me...
Feb. 14th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
You sure she'd understand you? We're simple, remember.
Feb. 15th, 2008 09:29 am (UTC)
Well, she might pretend not to understand, if she doesn't feel like just punching me.
Feb. 14th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
So my profession, nursing, has the opposite thing goin on (obviously).

There are a hella lot more men in the profession now than there were 20 years ago, but the only things that have seemed to have changed to make this happen don't really involve image. They involve massive demand, lots more pay and a lot more options. More men are entering because there's job security, cash, ability to travel, etc. Nursing didn't have that in the 70's unless we were at war. The very idea of nursing changing its "image" is hilarious to me. Who has time for that sort of shit? I know IT companies don't. Basically, I think it's going to work the same way for IT. If you build it, they will come.

This article made a lot of retarded assumptions about the differences between men and women. It did have some nice points about how women can change the group dynamic -- but that's kinda obvious, isn't it? Yeah -- a group guys are going to work differently if you throw a chick in there... duh.
Feb. 16th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
The way it reads to me is that someone took some basic statistics and looked at only the female side of things. I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were fewer CS degrees overall - and since CS degrees awarded to women have always been fewer, that the overall number of women with CS degrees is also correspondingly lower. And since that was thrown in there - it makes me wonder if that isn't where they're coming up with the idea that there are fewer women entering tech fields.

I wish articles like this were forced to cite their sources.

Where it was correct about group dynamics, men and women, etc. it was OBVIOUS and dumb. But most of it was absolutely incorrect. And I like your point about the benefits of your job attracting more people period, more of which happen to be men. In the past 10 years IT as a field has gotten tinier and tinier and more exclusive thanks to the boom then burst. I still know more out of work geeks scraping by at help desks than I do skilled workers being paid well for their knowledge and experience.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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