Business Management

Kathryn Cave (Global) - Does the IT Industry Need Women?

A straw poll we ran to our global audience showed that out of 242 respondents, 44% believe the IT industry can survive without women; whilst 55% say it can't. How are women really viewed in IT? Complete our short survey and let us know what you think.

Despite making up half the population and 49% of the labour force (in the UK at least), women in the workplace is a bizarrely divisive issue. Whether the controversy is centred on the pay gap, the career break necessary to raise children, perceptions of women's behaviour around the office... or something else entirely - everyone has an opinion. On top of this, women themselves are often the harshest critics, wielding unreasonably high expectations of their own sex. This is the backdrop to the discussion on women in technology.

Not surprisingly therefore, when we ran an article on the subject recently it generated a surge of passionate responses.  Comments ranged from clichéd sexism, "Let's face it. Majority 90% of women workforce do not contribute anything to the company. They know "how to play angel in-need-for-others-help" role.... [But] only 10% of women workforce do real work." Through to more measured discussions around a male dominated environment where women either don't fit in or aren't taken seriously. The majority however, came down to the fundamental differences between men and women.

Interestingly, the most lengthy comments and opinions came from men who had experience of female family members in the industry. These mainly boiled down to men "defending" women as workers, whilst remaining strangely baffled by their approach. As Gary put it "Overall, I don't think women's minds, in general, work the way IT demands. Have you ever listened to a few women talk? They can jump around with 6 or more different unrelated subjects in a 5 minute conversation. It boggles my mind. I wonder if women's minds are just not wired for the intense concentration and that is what is turning them away from IT."

This is a widely held point of view and could explain a lot, but does it really get to the nub of the problem? Some women (the same as some men) will put dedicated focus into tasks not stopping until they are 100% complete. But surely this is just the "obsessive" or "perfectionist" divide? For women themselves, perception of the IT industry as a whole does seem to be a problem. As Heather pointed out on our site, "Does the thought of IT instil images of hiding in cubby holes, stuck to a computer screen or surrounded by cables? [She is not interested in this.] The side of IT that I work in, the end user planning, scoping, training is probably more appealing to women."

However you look at it, men and women do have radically different approaches to thinking and working. This is an inevitable fact of life. What is more, the IT industry has survived with fewer women for decades, and a significant 44% of respondents don't feel women are strictly necessary. What do you think? Please fill out the six-question survey below and let us know your views.



By Kathryn Cave, Editor, IDG Connect


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