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Mailbag: Women in IT

Jan 23, 20034 mins
Data Center

* Readers comment on the subject of women in IT

Earlier this month, I wrote about programs to encourage more girls and women to pursue IT careers ( Some of you wrote to support those efforts, while others say women have good representation within their own IT departments.

Monica Li of Alcatel says, “I’m glad you highlighted the gender gap in IT. Personally, I think there’s a lack of role models on TV of females in IT.  The computer whiz is often played by what used to be a geeky looking guy and now more often someone looking like the Dell dude.  But that’s just my observation.”

Laura Vajda of Argonne National Laboratory is happy to report that she is graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in computer science in June. “There have been numerous times where I would be the only girl in a computer science class,” she says. However, her main reason for writing was to let me know that the lab is sponsoring a Women in Science conference on March 13 for high school girls who are interested in math, science or technology careers.

Vijaybharathi, a very large scale integration systems specialist for WiPro Technologies in India, says women account for about 120 of the 450 in her hardware department. “I definitely see more women in the country taking up engineering courses and joining IT careers, but there is still a long way to go to see the women’s strength increase in the top executive ranks.”

She suspects one of the reasons for the gender gap is that women in her country assume most of the burden of running a household. “The responsibility of managing the home front (including bringing up children) almost entirely is that of the lady of the house. Hence this puts a limitation to her travels, extra working hours, etc., which is a part of the senior executive’s work life,” she says. “Unless this changes, I see fewer women moving up the ladder with the same ease as their men counterparts do.”

Peter Schultz, a senior software services analyst for publisher Rodale, says, “In response to your recent email about the ration of women to men in our field, perhaps seminars and conferences are poor polling places.  Our IT staff has 35 men and 31 women; including 4 of the 6 managers and our CIO (who was hired more recently than the managers, so that is not the reason for the near even numbers).

Sean comments, “After reading your article on women in IT I was impressed with the different organizations spending time, money and resources dedicated to the promotion of women in the industry.  Any industry stands to gain a great deal from an integrated work force of top quality people. Such a work force provides a wealth of experience, perspective and talent not generally attributed to a homogenous work force. 

However, I would caution that these organizations do not go about the creation of an entirely separate club of their own.  I have witnessed this in academics, and in business; people of lesser ability promoted based on their membership to a given group.  Whether that group consists mainly of women, minorities or white males is of little consequence.  The fact of the matter is that this kind of activity creates a separatist mind set within the group and hostility towards others.  Prejudices can take many forms.  I only hope that these organizations, while promoting women, also give them the tools to interact effectively with everyone in the workplace.  It is in the promotion and integration of the best candidates, independent of sex or race, that true value is delivered.”

Finally, Sharon Li, a systems analyst and software engineer who has worked in IT work seven years, points out, “IT is a highly competitive field not only for women, but also for men.”