[FoRK] why women leave IT

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Fri Mar 11 05:22:54 PST 2005


http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_title=Why-Women-Leave-I-T-&story_id=31000

By Kimberly Hill
NewsFactor Network
March 9, 2005 11:19AM

While women tend to indicate the same needs for challenging work and have the
same ambitions as their male I.T. worker counterparts, some aspects of their
lives simply make achieving the balance more difficult. The fact is that
women still shoulder the burden of domestic responsibilities.

Women represent nearly half the workers in the U.S. -- 46.6 percent. However,
they always have been underrepresented in I.T. Even more discouraging is the
fact that the percentage of women working in I.T. jobs is not growing but
dropping. That is bad news indeed for employers seeking hard-to-find
technical candidates and the women who might otherwise fill those well-paying
jobs.

"Skill obsolescence is the number one issue for I.T. workers," Professor Deb
Armstrong of the University of Arkansas told NewsFactor. And it turns out,
according to a study by Armstrong and her colleagues, that certain facts of
women's lives make staying ahead of the game harder than it is for men.

Balancing Act

About a decade ago, women's place in the I.T. employment world was about even
with their numbers in the workforce at large. In 1996, women comprised 41
percent of I.T. workers. By 2002, however, that figure had dropped to 35
percent, and, according to Armstrong, the downward spiral is gaining
momentum.

For male workers, the challenges inherent in I.T. jobs create a feedback loop
-- a balance that must be maintained and managed, but that has basically one
dimension. For women, however, the very job qualities that strong I.T.
employees crave -- challenging projects and rapid, successive skill
acquisition -- are causing even more stress.

Thus, women are forced to balance not only job and family, but also
contradictions within their relationship to I.T. work itself. They, too, like
to keep their skills well-honed and take on interesting and high-profile
projects. But those very characteristics of I.T. jobs may be the ones that
finally push them out of the field -- and they are leaving, voluntarily, in
droves.

Vicious Cycle

Whereas the work-family conflict exists for men working in I.T. as well as
women, Armstrong and her colleagues found that for women the conflict has
three, rather than two, elements: a cyclic (as opposed to reciprocal) nature
of the work-family balance, the importance of particular I.T. job qualities
(such as project orientation), and the importance of a flexible work
schedule.

While women tend to indicate the same needs for challenging work and have the
same ambitions as their male I.T. worker counterparts, some aspects of their
lives simply make achieving the balance more difficult.

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 softwareRelevant Products/Services from
PlanView update occurs in her absence, for instance.

Bad News and Good

In addition, noted Armstrong, many of the networking and training
opportunities offered to I.T. professionals occur in the evening hours. Men
are much more likely to be able to attend these than women. They also are
more likely to be able to leave town for several days of training and know
that the fort is being held in their absence. Although many might wish it
were different, the fact is that women still shoulder the burden of domestic
responsibilities.

However, the news for women in I.T. may not be all bad, Yankee Group's Sheryl
Kingstone told NewsFactor. Since the first generation of women working in
I.T. has reached professional maturity now, they may already have advanced to
management and executive slots that do not fall within the strictly I.T.
category on the organizational table.

In addition, women can choose from a wide range of related positions if the
grind of the I.T. group makes work-life balance impossible. Some of them
include business analysis jobs and line-of-business titles that have big
technical responsibilities but report to business units instead of I.T.

-- 
Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
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