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Women Leaving I.T. 1027

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the baby-come-back dept.
Deinhard writes "NewsFactor is running a story on the exodus of women from the I.T. field. According to the article, women made up 41% of the I.T workforce in 1996. That number dropped to 35% by 2002 and that "the downward spiral is gaining momentum." While this is certainly a concern, what are the overall effects of such a mass departure?"
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Women Leaving I.T.

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  • by foobsr (693224) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:42AM (#11908508) Homepage Journal
    ... of participants here this has long since happened.

    CC.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:51AM (#11908549)
      I don't think it was ever the case.
      I would dispute the figures they are spewing.

      Unless of course they are including people who use computers to do their job rather than technical IT positions?

      Nowadays, there is no point putting IT on your CV if computers are so ingrained into your career path that NOT knowing them would mean not being able to do the job in the first place (for instance a secretary not knowing how to email or use Office etc)

      Anyway, we need more women posting on slashdot, but NO flowers or potpouri please, we have to keep some sense of decency.
      • by ComputerizedYoga (466024) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:36AM (#11908741) Homepage
        here's some figures for you to dispute.

        I'm a CS undergrad at purdue. Our CS undergrad program, as of the start of last semester had 40 women in it. 24 of them are graduating. it's estimated that 6-10 at most are coming in, by figures I've heard. This is down from 10-15% of the department 4 years ago.

        This is in a curriculum which has 800 or so undergrads, if I remember correctly.

        I'm currently in a 300-level class (a major requirement, no less) that has 80 students, none of whom are female. Last semester I was in a database class that had 50 students, with a single woman in it. The semester before, I was in a class with 150 people, and a grand total of 4 women, and I know that after that class one of them changed majors out of computer science.

        As of the end of this semester, 20-26 out of 800+. Those are very discouraging numbers, for women in CS. And the IT curricula in the school of technology aren't faring much better, I'm told.
        • Fellow Purdue Slashdotter here....

          As a student in the school of technology, I agree that women are drastically outnumbered along with leaving the program(s) entirely.

          I've noticed a general flow of kids going for a technical education here though. They start off in a program like engineering or CS, fall back to school of tech., and lastly end up in either management (or some derivative of business) or as an education major.
          • by Toresica (788403) on Friday March 11, 2005 @10:25AM (#11909687)
            've noticed a general flow of kids going for a technical education here though. They start off in a program like engineering or CS, fall back to school of tech., and lastly end up in either management (or some derivative of business) or as an education major.

            I can't remember where I read this, so I can't cite my source, but most men who drop out of engineering (either to take something else or to drop out of school entirely) have averages in the D's or below. Most women who drop out have averages in the A's and B's.
        • by Kadoo (822109) on Friday March 11, 2005 @12:57PM (#11911340)
          People say that university was the best time of there life.
          I wouldn't recommend computer science to my worst enemy.
          Not only do you not meet any girls in any of your classes you carry around the stigma of comp sci.
          On top of that I graduated at a time when there were no computer science jobs.
          I was forced to take a job as a bartender.
          Let me just say bartending was fun.

          The stigma for girls is even worse in comp sci.
          It's got to be hard not having any peers of the same gender.
          They are surrounded by a buch of sex starved guys.

          But look at the other side of the coin for example nursing.
          Not a lot of guys there.
          You never really hear studies about guys not going into nursing.
          Even though there is a huge shortage of nurses.
          The stigma of being a male nurse is a lot worse than comp sci.

          If you look at country like Korea, The stigma of comp sci doesn't really exist.
          I would imagine there is a high enrollment rate for women in comp sci there.
          Technology is very much a part of their society.
        • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:25PM (#11911681) Homepage
          Maybe this withdrawl is in part because thanks to TV, IT is no longer the sexy job it once was. These days everybody who's looking for a glamourous, wellpaying career becomes criminal investigators, or medical investigators, or whatever else is not on TV. The shows doll everybody up, make it look WAY more fun and exciting than it is, and then people try to get into that industry just following the crowd.

          What a shame it is that this floods the market for the people who are really there because of their interest in the field.

      • by kaiidth (104315) on Friday March 11, 2005 @08:13AM (#11908864)
        A lot of posters have asked why there are so few women here, but I suspect that nobody really knows how many women do post on slashdot (least of all how many women actually read slashdot - good luck working that one out).

        Most women surviving on the internet realise fairly quickly that it's courting severe and long-term irritation to admit to their gender in a room full of geeks. Therefore the majority of women registered on slashdot are not going to be using names with giveaway terms like, I dunno, "babe" in them.
    • by pigscanfly.ca (664381) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:51AM (#11908550) Homepage
      slashdot \neq IT
      More seriously there are a number of possible reasons for this. I would hazord a guess that a large number of women entered IT for the sake of the $ and now that the $ is harder to get they are moving to other fields.
      Not that men didnt do this, but if you look at the major universities they have essentially been bribing women to go into technical fields (engineering, cs , etc.) so I would hazord a guess that those efforts recruited people more interested int he $ than the love of the field.
      Of course I could be entirely of base.
      • That's not it at all.

        I know a lot of women in IT, and there are certain qualities that they have. Men have different qualities.

        To generalise, women are better in less geeky programming, where it is more business oriented. They don't tend to "play" in the way men do.

        Most women I know have less languages/tools under their belt, but have done a lot more of them. They have some wisdom about languages - mostly a change of language doesn't deliver the stratospheric improvements touted by the manufacturers.

        Here's why this matters: the world of programming used to be a lot more stable. You could learn COBOL and use it almost unchanged for a decade and keep getting better at it. The current thing of skills changing rapidly (i.e. another version of a tool that delivers nothing in terms of productivity to a business) doesn't help that.

        I think a lot of women just get fed up with this geeky game.

        It may also be that at one time, software development in companies was becoming more and more business orientated. Now, I see more and more hacker mentality than business oriented programming. And, I don't know if it's a culture particularly attractive to women.

        • by Helen O'Boyle (324127) on Friday March 11, 2005 @09:52AM (#11909412) Journal
          I'm a woman who's been in computing since the early 1980's. I (reluctantly) agree with the parent for the most part. Quick description of me: people I've worked with at a large software tool vendor have termed me "the geekiest womam I know" and admins and students considered me the school's "lead hacker" in college.

          I'm not sure that I'd say women are "better in less geeky programming, where it is more business oriented," but I would say that (in general) women I've known tend to prefer that end of the field. Maybe it's a desire to not have to spend their evenings learning new languages and technologies; maybe it's just less of an interest in pure technology and a predisposition toward seeing tech as just a tool for getting other things done; maybe it's something else entirely. But in my experience, the pattern does seem to exist. That generalization doesn't apply to me. I strongly prefer the "more geeky" hackerish stuff that requires keeping up with tech; it appeals to my curiosity about how things work. Nevertheless, the generalization has affected my career, because it's a perception many of my managers have had over the years. To be fair, my career does span two decades, and I started out in the southeast US, an area not well-known for progressive attitudes towards women in the work force. Lately, I've seen MUCH less of this, though perhaps it's because I'm now on the West Coast.

          The experience I gained for myself in school included UNIX file systems kernel work, IBM mainframe data communications and systems-programming-level assembler, writing an ancient commercial computer game, etc. I spent my vacations paying my own way to Usenix UNIX research conferences and my spare student cash on a Compuserve connection and the PC Pursuit service (cheap long distance for calling BBSes) in the pre-Internet days. When I got out into the real world: "no, we don't think you're right for this systems position, how about this COBOL application development group?", (I was far better, and more experienced, at OS internals in C or assembly than I was at COBOL) "we need someone with your expertise in user interface design," (huh? I had none), etc. An astonishing percentage of the time, companies have steered me toward work in business applications even when I demonstrated more aptitutde and interest in other areas of computing. One choice quote: "Oh, honey, you don't want to spend your days lugging 50 pound servers around." Reality: I have found it frustrating to work in the same business apps development environment for very long. After a very short period of "learning the environment", my work consisted largely of tediously lining fields up on grids and populating database schema, NOT learning about technology or improving/challenging my dev skills (companies specifically didn't want new technologies used in their apps because then, horrors, my coworkers would have to LEARN them!). At one place of employment, a small VAR, I referred a (less technical) male friend to my employer. Before I knew it, he was the organization's official customer engineer (a job function that previously occupied half my day), getting to do customer system configurations, on-site support, etc. I was only trotted out as a problem solver when customers had trouble with their installations, complained and specifically requested my presence, having heard through the grapevine that there was a girl at the company who really knew her stuff even though the company insisted my friend was their best techie. Other women I know have had similar experiences.

          It wasn't until I hung out my own shingle and had right of refusal over EVERY project, that I was able to lead my career away from that.

          This is applicable to the slashdot crowd because I'd like to encourage folks to take an open mind toward the women you encounter in tech. Some of us have wired our homes with X-10 gear, read OS source code with breakfast and yes, even have a history of butting heads with school admins over learning activities they insisted

      • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:17AM (#11910180)
        I assume that this is the real cause as well, actually.

        For example, during the dot-com era, some of the bigger consulting companies were crash-training whole classes of non-technical people to do IT. Can a former art or literature major with 3 months of technical training develop quality software? Generally not, but we're talking about companies like Anderson or PwC that don't mind solving problems by throwing more bodies at them, since that equates to more they can bill.

        When the tech market took a downturn, a lot of these people got forced out of the market. Some discovered they had a real talent or love for IT and stuck with it through the thin periods, but most went back to whatever it was they wanted to do in the first place.

        I think this kind of crowd was proportionaly more women than men, and their departure is what the statistics are really showing. I've met some great women in the IT field who do it for much the same reasons as most of the men you'd meet in the field, and those women aren't going anywhere.

    • IT would not be the only sector where women are less succesfull at getting to higher ranker positions. When push comes to shove, it's the lower ranking employees who get fired first. Not because the are more expensive to the company (because they are not but because they have less clout to defend their jobs. Whimpy nerds too get fired sooner than masculine bigmouthed moneyguzzlin managers. If you still think it is because of pure sexism, think again. I think it is because the selection favours masculine beh
      • And to put things in more perspective: I prefer Female managers over Male ones. I am very sexist at that because I think women have generaly more empathy and people skills, things a good manager needs.

        There's sexism, and there's realism. The reality is that there is a significant gender difference in leadership styles. Men tend to be authoritarian leaders, women tend to be more democratic. There's a time and a place for both, and one's not universally better than the other.

        Your preference in leadershi

    • Other fields...? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alaren (682568) on Friday March 11, 2005 @10:38AM (#11909790)

      You know, it's always a little disconcerting for me, as someone with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, to hear the contant studies taking place with regard to women and IT, women and science, women and math...

      This is because the ratio of men to women in the philosophy department where I did my B.A. looked about the same as it does in more, shall we say, marketable fields. But while there is a new story about women and their relationship with technology every seven seconds, no one seems too concerned about women and philosophy... or men and elementary education, for that matter.

      It's pretty obvious that this is because neither philosophy students nor kindergarten teachers make as much as they arguably should.

      But that means that we're not talking about this out of any real sense of equality. We may feel the knee-jerk impulse to argue about whether men and women are "really different" and whether this is biological or societal, but really we're seeing an inequality in a potentially lucrative field and so people feel the need to cry foul.

      I'm fine with that, actually, but I think the dialogue would feel a lot more academic and reasonable if we stopped crying "women can do math too!" and started asking how certain facts relate to one another--how the low number of male elementary school teachers and low number of female philosophy students and low number of female IT workers all relate to one another.

      (Personally, my guess is people have certain expectations of their roles, and that changing those societal expectations is not the sort of thing that takes place overnight... but I only minored in psychology, so take that as you will!)

  • Women? (Score:4, Funny)

    by gnoos (828264) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:42AM (#11908514)
    There were women working in IT???? Where?
  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:43AM (#11908516)
    Easy, stigma of the geek. Kill the stigma of IT and the geek and IT will attract more Women. Meanwhile IT will scare away just as many Women as any other geek...
    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:52AM (#11908796) Homepage
      That wasn't what TFA identified as the problem. They had some whacked out theories about stress and repeated claims about how women are just different from men and that's why it's harder for them to succeed.

      The closest I could find to an actual example in the article was this gem:

      For example, women tend to take maternity leaves when their children are born. Even if that leave is only a couple of months long, much could have changed by the time the woman returns to her desk. Imagine the increased stress for her if an enterprise software update occurs in her absence, for instance.

      Where "enterprise software" is a link to a company selling something (ie it's an advert). What little credibility the author may have had vanished with that line. Ooooh! Enterprise software! That's some scary stuff you got right there.

      I mean it's not like men ever get hit by a car and have to take a few months out (or lose their jobs!), is it? This article is a total fluff piece pandering to those who actually care about the imbalance, ie managers and not (by and large) the techs who just want to work with the best people possible.

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

      by drsquare (530038) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:54AM (#11908807)
      Or you could stop calling people geeks for being into computers. You people might have tried to turn it into a compliment because you were bullied with the term all through school, but for real people, the term is an insult.
  • Eh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:44AM (#11908517)
    Why is this necessarily a concern? I'm not against the presence of women in I.T., but I don't see that it's a problem if the proportion of female I.T. workers declines. This is just sexist scaremongering, along the lines of the GNAA [www.gnaa.us].
    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bil (30433) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:01AM (#11908611) Homepage
      I don't think it is a concern if women are leaving IT because they can get better jobs elsewhere or because there are less IT jobs or something.

      What is a concern is if they're leaving because they're being driven out by sexist attitudes or working conditions (not deliberately sexist perhaps, but more likely designed by single men, for single men and with a "you have to change your life, because we're not changing our conditions" attitude). If this is the case then a) that shows a deep ingrained prejedice that belongs in the 50's rather then a 21st century cutting edge industry, and b) we're losing lots of very talented people who can bring whole new ideas and ways of looking at problems into the industry because they were born with a particular set of physical characteristics rather then for any worthwhile reason.

      Diversity is good, not just in the operating system and software market but also in the people that produce that software.
    • Re:Eh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dki (597803)
      The article does a terrible job of explaining the overall concern and background of the situation. This decline didn't start in the 90's, but in the mid-80's. That is why it can't be fully attributed to the dot-com boom and bust. The reason people are concerned about this decline isn't just because it has been happening for 20 years, but because similar fields don't show similar declines. Science and engineering overall shows an increase. I believe engineering alone does too. Why is there such a dispa
  • Effects (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:44AM (#11908518) Homepage
    While this is certainly a concern, what are the overall effects of such a mass departure?

    Less sex on the job?

    Oh, wait, we're talking about IT right?

    Nevermind.
    • Re:Effects (Score:4, Insightful)

      by selderrr (523988) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:55AM (#11908576) Journal
      we're talking about IT, right ?

      I think this sums it up nicely : the field of IT is not what it ws 15 years ago. Today, 95% of the so called IT staff are project managers & planners. In other words : suits.

      It's common knowledge that that kind of jobs is still a highly men-only world.
      So it's not the number of women that declines, but the number of male boneheads that increases.
  • Effects. (Score:3, Funny)

    by CrackedButter (646746) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:45AM (#11908523) Homepage Journal

    what are the overall effects of such a mass departure?
    Er... tangible masterbation material is thinning out?
  • by dauthur (828910) <johannesmozart@gmail.com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:45AM (#11908524)
    How often is it though that you see an actual vagina-and-boobs bearing person in the IT field? Their scarcity may be scaring them off (No pun intended). It's simply a male-dominating field, considering some studies have shown that males have better grasps on logic and reason than woman, who tend to think more emotionally. That's obviously not the case with ALL women (See: Hilary Clinton) though, and I shouldn't be taken stereotypically.
    • Testing? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by melonman (608440)
      I assume this is a troll, but, anyway...

      It is a well-established fact that women are generally better with (human) languages, and given that a lot of IT is not about advanced math but is about manipulating symbols you would therefore expect women to do rather well in those areas of IT. And of course a large part of any job and the main component of many support-based jobs is interpersonal skills, which is another area where women do well. In any case, the bell curves overlap a huge amount, so while your av
      • Re:Testing? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by malkavian (9512)
        I think it's more to do with the now terrible working hours, and vicious conditions applied to the tech sector.
        Women seem to be a lot more sensible about taking that kind of crap from an employer than guys (who still feel driven to be "Primary breadwinner", and as such are more reluctant to leave a job and walk into uncertainty).
        From being a contractor across a LOT of companies in my time, and various full time roles, I've always found that the guys on the job have always (well, nearly always) just got on w
        • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:57AM (#11908819) Journal
          You know, I sorta wonder about the generalization that everyone who left, was in it just for the money, and everyone who stayed is passionate about it.

          I personally know people who left a field or a job precisely _because_ they were passionate about it... and it had turned into something they disliked. E.g., we have at least 3 people here alone, who used to program assembly since the days of mainframes and long before dot-coms, and then left for other completely unrelated jobs (2 of them became marketters and 1 trained to be a usability expert) when basically the job was no longer what they liked to do.

          Loving computers and programming is sometimes _the_ best way to _hate_ an IT or programming job, respectively.

          People liked coding a smart algorithm or maybe a cute game at home, they had their peer recognition for being good with computer in university, and... then moved into a real world that doesn't even vaguely resemble that. In the real world they:

          - got bogged in hundreds of hours of verbal-masturbation meetings,

          - were forced to do overtime for someone _else's_ mistake (e.g., the boss being too weak to tell the customer that completely changing the program needs more time and budget),

          - were asked to implement blatantly wrong specs, or use the blatantly wrong tools, just because a PHB (own or client's) said so and wasn't gonna take feedback from a lowly peon. (The nice salesman says it's the perfect "solution" for anything, so now go make it work. If it doesn't work, it's your fault, not the nice salesman's.)

          - had to wrestle with systems that wouldn't have been the wrong tools as such, but were wrongly configured and piss-poorly adminned by some other corporate department that's above the law,

          - had to deal with co-workers that were annoying in a miriad of ways (ranging from the 400 pound stinking geek, to office backstabbers, to people who are utterly incompetent and lazy but awesome at selling snake oil to the boss, to whatever else),

          - were forced to do stuff that really had nothing to do with the job they had signed for, such as being the poor-man's marketer instead of a programmer,

          - were asked to do blatantly unethical stuff, like to actively lie to a customer,

          Etc.

          And some of us just learned to shrug and deal with it. Some left the job. And I think it's a bit unfair to just lump them into the same category as those who were in it just for the dot-com's money.
  • Momentum (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:47AM (#11908529)
    "the downward spiral is gaining momentum."
    Angular or linear?
  • Effects (Score:5, Funny)

    by gnoos (828264) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:48AM (#11908530)
    "While this is certainly a concern, what are the overall effects of such a mass departure?"

    We will have to get the teas and coffees ourselves.
  • What about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:48AM (#11908532)
    The general exodus from IT given the fact that most jobs in this sector pay next to nothing and seem to be as satifying as a red hot poker crammed up the *ss.

    Is it any wonder the people are leaving given that family friendly seems to be a concept completely lost on most companies.
  • To Be Expected? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CleverNickedName (644160) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:48AM (#11908533) Journal
    Isn't this just another baby boomer generation leaving the office to have kids?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:49AM (#11908539)

    The few women I know in the IT field seem to have gotten into it for the money or because they couldn't think of anything else to do, rather than because they like working with computers. Now the money's gone, so are they.

    The same applies to many men of course, but it seems to me that geeky traits are exhibited more often by men than women, so women are going to be fewer than men in geeky endeavours.

    I don't think that a 50:50 split in any particular field is necessarily fair, what matters is not the male:female ratio, but that somebody with the requisite talent is able to pursue a career in a field without being artificially held back on the basis of their sex.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:24AM (#11908699) Journal
      E.g., according to real studies, 3 out of 4 "programmers" just can't program. E.g., about 2 out of 3 don't even know the basics of the language they're paid to program in. Yes, males included. Doesn't really have anything to do with gender.

      The dot-con fraud attracted a _lot_ of frauds in this field. The dot-cons were throwing other people's money out the window with both hands, just to show that they can. People with less brains or economic sense than a garden snail, had found themselves in a bunch of money, and had no idea what to do with them... other than show the Joneses that they too can spend like the big boys. Fast cars, huge headquarters, corporate airplanes for a tiny startup, or expensive programmers, it was just conspicuous consumption. (I.e., same as having a massive gold watch, just to show the neighbours who's rich. Doesn't even have to be a good watch: it just has to look blatantly expensive.)

      And they hired _anyone_. Literally _any_ drooling ex-burger-flipper was suddenly employable in IT or programming. People who were too stupid to operate a cash register, were ok as "web application developpers" or whatever.

      Lots of them, preferrably. Having 20 programmers and 30 artists for a 3 page web site was _cool_. Made the PHB feel like he too can play with the big boys' corporations.

      And unsurprisingly, a lot did fake a resume and move into IT or programming. A whole caste of fraudsters was created whose _only_ skill was marketting themselves. They too "deserved" the big bucks, a sports car and a plasma TV, and were not gonna let utter lack of skill and knowledge get in the way of their American Dream.

      It had nothing to do with liking to use a computer, or having any skill or inclination. Most not only had none, they didn't even try to learn either. They just "deserved" the money, they didn't actually want to start working for them.

      And I don't think that being male or female played that big a role there. If there weren't 50% females there, if anything, makes me suspect they're more honest. Because anything to do with skill or liking computers, it sure didn't have.
    • by mikael (484)
      The few women I know in the IT field seem to have gotten into it for the money or because they couldn't think of anything else to do, rather than because they like working with computers. Now the money's gone, so are they.

      That's the motivation for 95% of the population. In your final year, our school careers office used to invite various professions to visit and give presentations on careers in their particular specialty; accounting, law, management, engineering. On one particular day, the accounting and
      • by ajs (35943)
        Right, and in the 90s that 5% of people motivated by the sheer joy of what they do were, largely being swept up into the growth of the Internet. It was a big shiny thing. Now, it turns out that in technical fields, most of those people are men. In liberal arts fields, it's more of an even mix and in health-care it's more weighted toward women.

        If, let's just say for example's sake, 20% of men in Internet-related businesses were in it for non-monetatry reasons and 2% of women were. If half of the money-motiv
  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bil (30433) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:49AM (#11908541) Homepage
    Judging by many of the replys so far probably the bigest thing driving women out of IT is the attitude of male IT workers who seem to think that we're still living in the 50's, for an industry thats meant to be the cutting edge of the future, many peoples attitudes seem to be about as old fashioned as they come.
    • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eminence (225397)
      for an industry thats meant to be the cutting edge of the future

      Cutting edge of the future? Hello, wake up!

      It's not that anymore. Look around, most IT jobs are degrading with light speed - who is a sysadm or a programmer now and who was he in social perception ten or twenty years ago? These are now just dispensable human resources, sorry to say that but it's true. This industry is now becoming commonplace, normal industry like say telecoms or railways or textiles - each of them has been the cutting edge

      • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bil (30433)
        Stuff social perception, but in technology terms yeah you're right but the waves of inovation and cutting-edgeness (hmm a new word for the day!) have been driven by people who dont understand the old rules and so are free to reinvent them. Now think of all those women who have left or will never enter the industry and consider that to re-ignite that innovation it would only take a few people with a new outlook on IT and computers, and new ideas of how to solve problems, or even new problems to solve and tel
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:51AM (#11908552)
    Lets face it, women generally aren't interested in computers. (being very general here)

    There is nothing wrong with this. Why is it a crisis?

    I suspect the "downward spiral" is due to a lot of women who went into IT (perhaps due to all the efforts made to attract them) only to discover they really weren't interested.

    The effects won't be very significant. (it may have an impact on the consumer level as less software is written with women in mind though)

    Live and let live. They're not interested, so what?
    • >Live and let live. They're not interested, so what?

      It depends on WHY they are not interested.

      1) They are just not into tech stuff anymore.
      2) They are not interested because there's a glass ceiling and no room for advancement,
      3) They are not interested anymore because they are tired of maintaining ten times the competence required from male co-workers.

      One of them is more OK than others. Clueful people can tell which.
  • Women _are_ smarter than men.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:55AM (#11908578)
    I worked for a female I.T. manager once. She fired someone every 28 days.
  • Define "I.T." (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pommiekiwifruit (570416) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:56AM (#11908581)
    If they include call centres as "I.T." jobs then offshoring may have had an impact.
  • Other factors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ewe2 (47163) <ewetooNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:57AM (#11908590) Homepage Journal
    While the article's conclusion seems insightful enough, it doesn't take account of aspects like the general outsourcing of data entry (formerly the only kind of IT work women could get), or the sheer lack of advancement opportunities, particularly in telecommunications. Even with good prospects, women are disadvantaged.

    Given the current wonky state of the larger IT companies, are they missing a useful female perspective?
  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:00AM (#11908606) Journal
    That article is very poor journalism, even by the low standards of today.

    Start with the two years the mention: 1996 and 2002. 1996 was the start of the dot-com boom. And 2002, a slump after dot-bombs are clearing away.

    Where's the numbers in the middle? Did it drop in 1997-1999, in the boom? Did it stay the same until 1999, then drop? Has it been a continuous rate change? Where's the support that it really is a "downward spiral"?

    Second, lacking from TFA are actual numbers and places.

    Is this the IT market globally, including countries like India, China, Russia, and others? Or is this the IT market in the US? Or perhaps just the San Jose area? Or just Arkansas where the school that ran the survey is at? How many women? Has there been an increase in the number, just less of an increase relative to men? Or has the total number stayed about the same, or dropped? What are the women doing? Are they including women employed as secretaries and managerial operations within the IT business? How about men similarly working in IT companies, but not doing IT? What about the people not in the IT business but doing the work for small companies?

    Given the (lack of) data we are shown, their conclusions are not really warranted.

    frob

  • by squarooticus (5092) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:02AM (#11908615) Homepage
    I really don't see why people get overworked when statistics like this come out. Is there anything really wrong with the concept that there might be inherent differences between men and women that would account for something like this? Or will I be modded down like Lawrence Summers effectively was?
  • by imsmith (239784) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:05AM (#11908627)
    I think what it means is that Information Technology is, from the point of view of a company that isn't writing code, making hardware, or providing connectivity, a dead horse. The corporate world doesn't need in-house geeks soaking up the payroll and hoarding the sacred knowledge of esoteric, arcane legacy systems that don't work.

    That equates to corporate IT being a pre-capped stove pipe within any given non-tech company - something women who are looking for good paying positions with the possibility of advancement aren't finding attractive. It may be that they aren't drawn naturally to the "me geek, me play with cool toys" life, but that life has limited applicability outside of the tech sector. Why would anyone intentionally choose to enter a career track that leads to becoming the digital equivalent to a cafeteria server or a janitor?

    Until someone comes along and changes the landscape of Information within business (and society) to something that more closely approximates electricity - Information Utility - there won't be any truely good reason to get into anything but the super creative core disciplines of IT in a shrinking number of tech firms that are charting the course for the future of business computing.

    Because women constitute both a more observed and a smaller population, trends will appear sooner in their group within the IT world as a whole. I think they are leaving because it's smart to be leaving this particular ship if you aren't in a position to steer a new course.
  • by pocari (32456) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:05AM (#11908628) Homepage
    The article asks readers to imagine what would happen if a woman took a two month maternity leave during which an enterprise software update happened. That would be stressful, and suddenly her skills would be obsolete.

    If IT remains a field where the only relevant knowledge is what you've done in the last two months or two years, then it makes no sense for someone to spend a career on it. Kids are coming out of school (in schools around the world now) with the latest programming languages. If a short absence from IT means you are less valuable than a recent graduate, then it makes sense to leave the field after an absence. Women are more often forced by circumstances like having children to make more mid-career decisions like this than men.

    In other professions, there are skills you use and tools you become proficient at over the course of many years. It seems that these either don't exist in IT, or (as I believe) they do exist, but are rarely developed or valued. If returning to IT is as difficult as starting over in a new profession, we shouldn't be surprised that people choose to do so.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:23AM (#11908697) Homepage Journal
    Two different call centers in my area closed down and both of those who lost jobs were women. My understanding was that were more women than men at both. So I am curious what is counted as IT in this report...

    As for maternity leave. We have 3 out now and one more going by July here. Two are out on 12 week maternity leaves. This is where I disagree with the article. We, like other companies, simply don't move that fast. Yes a lot can go by in 12 weeks but most of it is meaningless. There might be one major change, maybe two if some managers actually got out of their own way. Two of them have come back once already from an earlier pregnancy and nothing really changed here other than they have a few more missed days throughout the year.

    Leaving in droves? Maybe they got smart :)
  • by andkaha (79865) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:26AM (#11908708) Homepage
    You can't compare percentages like that and come to the conclusion that women are leaving the IT market without mentioning the actual numbers...
  • by CrankyFool (680025) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:32AM (#11908729)
    I tried not to be redundant and all, but ...

    TFA talks about women's participation in IT as a percentage of the IT workforce, but that doesn't tell us anything about whether or not women are fleeing IT. Try this as an experiment:

    Time 0: 100 IT positions. 40 are women.
    Time X: 1000 IT positions, 350 are women.

    We've gone from 40% women to 35% women. Have women fled the field? HELL NO.

    We need absolute numbers to figure out whether or not there are less women in IT than there used to be, but TFA doesn't seem to have them (or I missed them -- I did R it, of course).
  • Titanic (Score:4, Funny)

    by Duncan3 (10537) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:38AM (#11908748) Homepage
    When the ship is sinking, the women and children leave first don't they? :)

    Blame the outsourcing iceberg. Something about "no longterm prospects".
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:38AM (#11908750) Homepage
    The article doesn't actually say there are fewer women in IT -- only that the percentage of IT workers who are women has declined. In other words, since the IT field has no doubt grown, the number of women may have increased -- just not as fast as the number of male IT workers.

    Rather than crying that the sky is falling and theorizing as to why a trend that may not exist happen, maybe the article should question the way it uses statistics more closely. (You see similar things in Apple marketshare stories -- Apple is down to 2% of the market, but they sell a steady or increasing number of machines. Why? Because the market is growing. It helps to have perspective on these things.)

  • by Jack Porter (310054) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:49AM (#11908785)
    When I worked for a game development company in the US it was extremely rare to meet a female developer, occasionally an artist or level designer. My company had a single female - the office manager.

    When I came to Korea I was amazed at the ratio, it's approaching 40-50% in my new company. And not just artists but programmers, sysadmins etc.

    It's not unusual to see a girl on the subway studying a cisco, C++ or Linux book. There's definitely no sense of uncoolness being in IT - it's not even seen as geeky, just a good career.

    So in Korea, only old women are leaving IT :-)
  • by gerardlt (529702) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:49AM (#11908787)
    Just take a quick glance through the comments here and it becomes kind of obvious.
  • by BigIrv (695710) on Friday March 11, 2005 @08:59AM (#11909045)
    When people start worrying that there aren't enough men going in the dental hygienist field (I've never in all my life seen one), I'll start worrying about the lack of women in IT.
  • by pottymouth (61296) on Friday March 11, 2005 @09:05AM (#11909073)

    As much as I love women (after all, I'm a man) why is it a concern that women might prefer work that's a little less tedious and a little more rewarding. Maybe we should worry a little bit more about improving the quality of IT jobs and software engineering jobs in particular rather than sexist or racist issues of why we don't have equal numbers of every sexual and ethnic group in IT jobs. Is it a concern that most garbage collectors are men????
  • by dragongrrl (758265) on Friday March 11, 2005 @09:35AM (#11909276)
    i can come up with several reasons why my career is taking me ever more into the business side of the aisle, away from the geek cubes::

    First, I've still never met another female software architect. People like to work with people who are like them. It gives them more to talk about than just "the code". It's hard to make friends at work when you're surrounded by mostly men. Everyone thinks you're "more than friends".

    Second, IT managers tend to have less "soft skills" than their business-side counterparts. Face it, we live in a world where women do the lion's share of child-raising. If my manager isn't sensitive about the time I *need* to be away from work cos school is closing early, then I'm going to be less happy on the job.

    Third, IT managers tend to be male (as are most IT workers). Managers like to promote people who are like them. It's been hard for me in some organizations to envision a good career path.

    Lastly, it sucks sometimes to be in meetings and be the only woman there. Yes, that can be a point of pride, but it's not always a comfortable feeling.

  • by Arysh (707395) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:00AM (#11910024)
    ... there are a few things that I'd like to add to this discussion. Some may have been said before, but I'm afraid that due to an imminent Java tutorial, I don't have the time to read through everything.

    First of all, I'd like to say a little bit about myself and what I've observed around me. I'm a second year student at Dalhousie University (that's in Halifax, if anyone cares), and I've only been an official computer science student for this past term. Before that, I was a biology major, so I'm really behind in my cs courses and have to take both first and second year classes concurrently. I've noticed that while my first year Java course has quite a number of girls in it, most of them are from other faculties and, quite frankly, wouldn't cut it in any IT-related field. These are the kinds of girls who got it into their miniscule brains sometime in highschool that boys only like stupid girly girls, so they seem to make a sincere effort to not learn anything about computers. In my second year classes, the girls are more like me -- perfectly ordinary geeks who just happen to like computers and want to learn more. Of course, there are far fewer girls in those second year classes because the aforementioned bimbo types have already been weeded out by the insurmountable challenge of writing a Hello World program in Java.

    My question then becomes, how do we get more intelligent girls in computer science? Not just girls in general, but ones who actually have some kind of talent for it and aren't going to make the rest of us look bad with their antics. I don't think there's an easy answer to this, but I suspect that the current initiatives are doing more harm than good.

    For example, when I see a job ad that says "We encourage minorities like blacks, Native Americans and women to apply!" I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "Uh... OVER 50% OF THE FREAKIN' POPULATION HERE! How the HELL are a minority?" But for some reason, we're treated as if we're some kind of endangered species. Doesn't it occur to anyone that we might not like that treatment? Doesn't it occur to anyone that we just want to be treated like ordinary human beings, no matter what's between our legs? I mean, I'm not going to refuse if somebody throws money at me for having a vagina and using a computer, but it's really not a good way to encourage other girls to join the field. It's hard to see myself as successful when I so often have to wonder if everything I've "achieved" is only because I'm female (and thus have to be specially encouraged and rewarded to keep me from running away.)

    Oh, and another thing: I never see any similar initiatives to get more men into... say... nursing, or even regular biology. They're definitely in the minority, but either people are afraid of being called sexist for favouring the sex that's supposedly in power (even though it hasn't been for decades), or they've figured out that the best way to get men into something like nursing is NOT to say "Oh, don't worry! It's not just for women! You won't be less of a man if you're a nurse! Not feminine at all! Trust me!" because they know that any man will look at something like that and think to himself "So wait, nursing makes me gay?" thanks to the wonders of reverse psychology. I just wonder how long it will take for the faculty of computer science to figure that out as well...

    (Yes, I know I'm bitter.)

  • by cybergrue (696844) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:12AM (#11910131)
    Government.

    I have worked for the various government agencies and departments for 8 years now, and the number of women working in IT is definitely above average for the IT field. I attribute this to the fact that they are not being driven out of the field here. As a government employee, we have steady and predictable hours with little overtime. Vacation time is quite generous, and family related leave is available. These working conditions are not only attractive to women, but also to the men that I have worked with as well. I knew one guy who took a 20% pay cut (transferring to government from the private sector) so that he could have dinner with his family on a regular basis. I know another who is taking parental leave shortly so he can raise his daughter while his wife goes back to work early (in the private sector, she also works in IT).

    I think the problem here is that the expected working conditions in the (North American private sector) IT field are atrocious. Long hours, unpaid overtime, arcane technology that is constantly changing is what's wrong with the IT industry. Women leaving the field in droves are just a symptom of a deeper running illness.

  • by smudge (79563) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:30AM (#11910347)
    I was discussing this very issue with my daughter just the other day. She is investigating colleges. She happens to be a math and science wiz!

    She has NO desire to go into IT. Nor do her friends.

    Why?
    • They don't want to work 60+ hours every week.
    • They don't want to be stuck in a cube.
    • They like working WITH other people.
    • They like doing things after hours that don't relate to their job.
    • They want to have a social life, family, friends.
    • They want respect.


    These girls have seen all the "girls can do math/science" stuff their whole lives. They KNOW they can. They will take that else where.

    When IT becomes people friendly, the women will come back. Many men are leaving for the same reasons.
  • by glsunder (241984) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:47AM (#11910540)
    how many in IT are 25 to 35 now? Because that's the age when many people have kids now. My wife was in IT till our son was born. She's staying home with him. Although not as many moms stay home while the kids are in school, a lot more stay home with them for the first year or so.

    About 45% are home atleast a year -- "55 percent [nwsource.com] of women who gave birth between July 1999 and July 2000 returned to the labor force within a year of having their babies". "Of the 41.8 million kids under 15 who lived with two parents last year, more than 25 percent had mothers who stayed home, according to a Census Bureau report."

    Some might think this is a bad thing. But "You're not how much money you have in the bank."
  • by lazn (202878) on Friday March 11, 2005 @01:03PM (#11911412)
    Simple, women are smarter than men, and they already see that IT is a dead end field, like making buggies after the Model T came out.

    Although there will still be IT jobs (unlike the buggy makers) from here on out IT will be drudge work, and not a desireable field to be in anymore. It is just that women noticed this first.

    ==>Lazn

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