By Don Willmott
This one goes out to all the ladies – or to be more specific, to the female IT workforce that finds itself permanently in the minority and suffering some of the stings of second-class status. It’s a story that’s news every week, though recent developments have brought it back to the forefront.
The topic first came to my attention seven months ago, when I wrote about the size of the female IT workforce, noting it’s now believed to constitute 15 to 25 percent of technical professionals, though women’s ranks in management are about only 8 percent. Studies were reporting that IT could be "brutally dismissive of family life," with one finding "a third of the women in IT had decided to delay having children in order to achieve their career goals."
Over time, some interesting comments popped up under the post. One woman wrote, "I don’t think it is a woman thing. I think it is more related to the amount of time a person is willing or able to devote to their career. I don’t feel like a victim. I feel blessed to be a parent who has a really cool job."
Another said, "Frustrated with my inability to get ahead in corporate America, I went off to do independent IT consulting. This increased my skill set and my income significantly."
A third wrote, "I haven’t experienced any discrimination, but I do know how to negotiate salary and ‘talk’ like a man. My friends are mostly men. LOL – the only time I ever had any issues at the workplace was when I worked for businesswomen! I think they are the worst!"
Frustration may lead to the fact that about 56 percent of technical women leave at the "midlevel" point, more than double the quit rate of men, according to one study. And yet, enough are sticking around to raise the number of female CIOs or EVPs of Technology at 1,000 leading companies from 12 percent to 16.4 percent in the past two years, according to recruiting firm Shelia Greco Associates.
At the same time, the gender gap in terms of salaries between men and women in tech has disappeared, according to the Dice Salary Survey. When examining salaries of both genders at comparable levels of experience, education, and job title, no significant differences can be found. As the survey puts it, "At the end of the day, tech is about skills and applying them to a problem or opportunity. For great programmers, security analysts or project managers, gender shouldn’t play a role. For women, this is empowering news. Knowing you’re in a field that pays for skills, and where hard-to-find skills are prized, means you can look for lateral moves into companies with good track records in career advancement for both genders."
So what can I say to the female IT workforce but hang in there and know that you’re probably in a better position than you would be in other sectors of the economy. Almost 50 years after the Mad Men era and 40 years after Mary Richards arrived at the WJM newsroom to take on Lou Grant, it’s discouraging to think we still even need to keep an eye out for a gender gap. Luckily, tech women stick up for each other at the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Women in Technology International (WITI), two great resources for women to seek out advice and support. They’re working hard to close whatever gender gap may remain.