Women in Technology – Does it Really Matter? (Part 2)

My first posting on this topic asked the question of why there aren't more women in IT. The next question for me is "Why does it matter?".

It's no secret that the number of women in IT is on the decline. However, I can't help but take exception to those that say it's of no concern, like this quote taken from a paragraph in the same CIO Insight article I wrote about the other day.

A question that may seem politically incorrect: is the decline cause for concern? Charlene Li, an analyst at IT advisor Forrester answers: "If the numbers are going down, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Women have choices." Powers agrees. "Women may be making rational decisions," she says, "given the unpleasantness of the job."

Unpleasantness of the job? Perhaps there are elements that may not be appealing to all such as the long hours and the over abundance of pizza dinners, but that's precisely why  diversity is important. A more diverse workforce can create a more balanced work environment (history has shown how diversity can influence this), fueling creativity and "outside the box" thinking. A more gender balanced workforce should make for better products that appeal to both men and women. I can't help but think that perhaps the reason why computing is so unappealing to many women and young girls today is because there hasn't been more of a female influence on how the technology has evolved and has developed (btw, if this interests you and you're looking for a little late night reading, take a look at Michael Mahoney's paper titled Boy's Toys and Women's Work: Feminism Engages Software).

It's great that we have choices and that women can choose not to enter into a career that's not appealing. But this trend should be disconcerting, especially you consider the skills shortage we're currently experiencing. Not only could a diverse workforce improve working conditions, provide fuel for more inclusive products but it should also increase our competitive advantage as a country by addressing what is shaping up to be a real shortage of qualified IT workers.

Comments (2)

  1. Don Spencer says:

    I agree that the profession needs more women, especially women with visibility and in positions of leadership. But how to get there from here?

    Self-selection may hint at something that needs to be recognized. Gender differences are not a myth, but I suspect most of what passes for differences are based on stereotypes. If we want to generalize about why women are staying out of IT, then speculating may be the last thing we want to do. We need data, not just Q&As posed to women chosing a field of study, but psychological and sociological studies into aptitude, gender self-selection, and social pressures.

    I wonder if anyone has references to online studies that might help us?

  2. Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, ISP, sibaraki@cips.ca says:

    Maria Klawe has done research in this area … we talked about this in my podcast with her in 2005. The podcast appeared here and can be found on my site under CIPS. There’s also data from the CIPS-hosted National Academic IT Youth forum, a May national event (live in Toronto) with interactive live-meeting across the country. Youthography presented their findings at the forum which had Deans and Faculty from the across the country participating.

    Best regards,


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