Where are the women in IT?
With a large volume of women in the global workforce, why is there an industry shortage of skilled IT professionals? And why have the numbers of female IT professionals dwindled from 35 percent in the early 1990s to only 29 percent in 1998 (U.S. Department of Labor)? In “Barriers for the Breaking-Women in IT Training” by Leanne Eline (Technical Training, March/April 1999), companies face a lack of corporate mentors, trainers and role models; gender discrimination and negative stereotypical images of computer workers; and the long hours IT professionals are required to work.
For women to get ahead, they must stay focused on their goals. Women need to be realistic that the “gender gap” is like a slow moving train, and should not be discouraged if they are not considered for jobs as quickly as their male counterparts. They need to get up and try again with the utmost confidence and assertiveness, which may include applying for a job opening that may seem out of reach. It’s better to be considered than not even be on the list.
Sacrifices are required to get ahead in the IT arena, especially if women are trying to balance family and career. Many times the long hours of the IT professional causes a losing battle for the family; hence, many women nix their career path.
Deetsy Armstrong, SAFECO Corp. CIO, stresses that along with technical skills, business and communication skills are a must to succeed in the field. Constant networking and staying up to date on technical material / publications is a necessary challenge. Other tips from female IT professionals and trainers include being a mentor as well as a trainer; keeping a positive attitude; showing leadership and confidence; not hesitating to be heard; finding a personal working style; and highlighting your accomplishments with authority.
Beginning as early as grade school, girls can be positively geared toward technical fields, rather than towards “support staff” roles. Companies should “invest in employee retraining, especially by and for women” ensuring that “women will be prepared to train the next generation in IT skills.”