Techie women, where are you?

Women represent more than 50 percent of the American professional workforce and own more than 40 percent of private businesses in the U.S., yet they fill only 25 percent of technology jobs and start only 8 percent of technology companies.

In contrast, research shows that tech companies with a higher representation of women in their management teams have a higher return on investment; that startups run by women use less capital and are more likely to survive the transition to established company; and that including women in a group is more likely to increase its collective intelligence, helping it solve problems better and faster than homogenous groups.”

In Europe the picture is no better with a significant under representation of women at all levels in technology.

  • Why do you think we women are still not up there with the guys re technical careers?
  • If you’re a younger woman tell me how was the topic taught to you at school?
  • If you are in a technical career how did you get there? Was it relatively easy?
  • What do you think would encourage more women into these roles?

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you. Please pass this on to any techie friends you have, guys too. Let’s get a debate underway!

The European commission has a report on women in technical positions which you can download here.

Photo Credit: Joao Estevao Andrade de Freitas

Posted on May 4th, 2011 by

7 Responses to “Techie women, where are you?”

  1. Karen Toon (@GMTKT) says:

    Hi Jane

    Interesting Post. Why are women so far behind the men in this line of work? Where’s the equality gone or does the age old saying ‘A women’s place, is in the home’ still standing. Oh, I hope not.

    For me the career in the IT field started in the early to mid-1990. I had started my working career very young and went to secretarial college before leaving school in 1986. By the time I was 16, I had all 3 of the RSA typing certificates as well as the alternative Pitman typing certificates. I gained a secretarial diploma and started my working life on the YTS scheme – nick named then the Young Thick and Stupid route. By no means, did I class myself as thick let alone stupid, but getting a job was hard as I was met with comments at interviews such as “How are you so qualified, yet so young?”

    By the early 1990’s I became bored with the secretarial role and wanted to Pass-On the knowledge I had learnt, hence my start along the teaching path. I gained my Teaching Certificate (F.A.E.T.C) and by this stage computers, were more commonplace. I shadowed the IT Trainer at Glenfield Hospital NHS Trust and from there, I have never looked back. I started teaching in the evening in local colleges and furthered my IT knowledge by reading books, attending courses and merely ‘playing’ with the latest software. My fav at the time was WordPerfect 5.1 – the reveal codes facility was ace! Which is something, I now loosely transpose to an early kind of HTML code.

    I enjoy teaching IT skills – software and applications, not the nerdy techy stuff. I thrive on passing on knowledge and get a huge buzz from watching my learner’s progress from digitally excluded to competent IT professionals. I’ve supported 2 ladies in following my footsteps and it’s great to see them both doing well.

    I’d be interested to hear from others that have chosen the hardware side of IT, networking etc. Things I have working knowledge off but don’t admit too!

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Ceri and Karen for your comments. Technology when I was at school consisted of learning to type, and that was definitely a downgrade from the more academic route; you couldn’t study O’levels and learn to type. Many’s the time I’ve wished for better keyboard skills! I wonder how it is in schools now? Well done you Karen, in following your own path. I think the teaching of IT, like most things, depends on the teacher. I’ve had some brilliant training and some really dreadful stuff. Since becoming self employed necessity has certainly honed my skills!

  2. Ceri says:

    Jane, with more than 20 years experience as a haedhunter behind me, and working primarily in the technology and outsourcing arena, I can confirm that I placed very few women in technology specific roles. Where I did introduce more women into roles were in the consulting positions where they applied the technology to a business problem, and managed the change technology brought to the workplace.

  3. Thought provoking topic. I left school just as the first computer arrived. However, my interest and fascination with IT began in the mid 80’s when I did a binary programming course to help me use my ZX Spectrum. I love using computers and started my career in Training and Development by delivering training to staff to use a bespoke computer software package. Since then I’ve delivered various bespoke IT courses and even did some e-learning design work last year. I really enjoy working with IT however, I prefer to specialise in Management Training and Development Programmes. As for why we are not up there with the guys …personal choice, lack of encouragement/confidence, technical jobs still viewed as being male dominated, women not wanting to work in that environment, lack of understanding of the range of opportunities available. If you are in business today It skills are definitely a must. Thanks

  4. Jools says:

    I fought hard to stay a techie, and pretty much succeeded until my mid-30s when I took a permie position.

    As a contractor I’d been quite picky about the work I took on, but I found in a permie role my managers kept wanting to push me towards people-management or project-management. Even though I made it very clear that wasn’t what I wanted, I kind of got backed into a corner – I’m not saying none of the responsibility is mine, but it’s easy to let it happen when you don’t want to appear to be the difficult team member. After a couple of years hands-off, it’s been very difficult to make up the time I lost in my core skills, so now I’m seriously thinking about moving my career towards specialising in service management.

    In general though, I think high-flying techie roles are more difficult to juggle with family commitments (for both men and women). Where I work there are quite a few guys with young families, they also seem to move towards the management track. Most of the senior hands-on techies I can think of don’t have kids or are less hands-on at home so can do the crazy hours around project delivery time, or to be the ‘superhero’ who fixes stuff that breaks at 2am (which, sadly, is still how you get recognised and rewarded in most places I’ve worked).

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Jools and Noelyne for your comments.
      Having had to get to grips with far more technical stuff than ever before since becoming self employed, I think there is something about the way we’re taught. There are some techie folk who can tell me something and I get it immediately and others who could talk till next dung spreading and sadly I’ll never understand. Someone who has great communications skills and great technical skills should be worth their weight in gold. But I understand your frustration, Jools with getting pigeonholed in the people bit as presumably that’s seen as less value than the ‘glamour’ of sweeping in on your white horse and fixing things in the dead of night!

  5. Jools says:

    @Karen… I started out with WP51 as well! Shift+F7,6 for Print Preview is about all I can remember these days though 🙂

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