[FoRK] why women leave IT

Cleopatra Von Ludwig rockfish at gmail.com
Sat Mar 12 12:23:56 PST 2005

Interesting perspective, Strata... it wouldn't have even occurred to
me that female IT professionals would see the engineering side as an
escape from their job woes. In fact, when I read the article (and your
bulleted reasons, up until g), I thought it described female
developers just as well as female IT support. The hyper-competitive
assholes, the inability to take any time off (for breeding or
what-not) without losing career momentum, the domestic obligations
that inhibit after-hours training or working... that's the life of the
programmer as well (I'm obviously a programmer). So I'm not sure that
I would distinguish between the two as much as you have; that being
said, I've met far fewer women in IT than in development, and I'm not
sure if I can explain why that is any better than anyone else.

Back to the original article... while it didn't draw any conclusions
or offer any suggestions about the plight of women in IT (or other
technical fields) who want to breed, stay home with their kids for a
few months/years, then get back into the working world, I think this
is a dangerous issue to touch. IMHO, having kids is a choice, just
like taking 2 years off to go galavanting around the world is a
choice. If women can't work out with the fathers of their children
what the balance of domestic obligations will be, then they pay the
price for it. Ironically, most women will choose to stay home with
kids for financial reasons -- their male counterparts make more money,
so it makes sense for the women, rather than the men, to stay home.
Why do men make more money? Well, gee, could it have something to do
with the fact that they're able to spend more time in after-hours
training or working late, because of their reduced domestic
responsibility? Kind of a vicious circle, isn't it? I've obviously
oversimplified the problem to make a point, but I'm just sayin', is

I have no solutions. I offer only problems. :-)


On Fri, 11 Mar 2005 12:08:33 -0800, Strata R. Chalup <strata at virtual.net> wrote:
> Interesting idea, but I think it's only the tip of the iceberg.  .
> The primary reasons I hear first-person are (not necessarily in order, mostly in
> combination):
>         a) IT in most companies are treated even more like crap than usual (eg, system
> janitor), partly in some kind of weird payback mentality for IT being so golden
> during the bubble
>         b) salaries in IT have dropped from their bubble highs, and the amount of
> uncompensated time has vastly increased-- on call, overtime, etc
>         c) there's rarely any feeling of 'making a difference' in IT, just dealing with
> the same old stuff day in and day out
>         d) many IT folks are isolated even if working for the same company, scattered
> into different departments and with no sense of being part of a team
>         e) really, really, *really* tired of the hyper-competitive pushiness and
> general 'advancement by asshole quotient' culture of most tech companies
>         f) screw this, I'm going to go into IT consulting and get paid real money to
> take this kind of crap
>         g) screw this, I'm going into software engineering / web development / database
> development / technical project or product management
> I've been doing this for over 20 years, and have very rarely been out of work
> when I didn't want some time off.  And I still get very very tired of having to
> push back hard against every new-kid engineer on the block who wants to earn
> status points by slamming the IT people for what turns out to be his or her own
> damn fault.
> One remedy is switching sides-- as I mentioned in items f and g, and the quoted
> article somewhat glosses over in the final paragraphs, many women are leaving IT
> to become programmers, because it pays better and you get more respect.  IT is a
> cost center, engineering is a revenue generator.  Never mind that IT is merely
> scapegoated for the cost of engineering's revenue, since it's running up the big
> bills to respond to the insistent demands of the engineers.  Nope, nope, those
> lazy IT bastards are pure overhead... I wonder how we can get rid of them.. they
> just sit there in front of their terminals all day (reading security bulletins,
> upgrading stuff before it fails, fixing bugs that never make it into the
> helpdesk system because the engineers consistently refuse to use that and just
> send mail directly, etc).
> cheers,
> Eugen Leitl wrote:
> > 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.
> >
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > FoRK mailing list
> > http://xent.com/mailman/listinfo/fork
> --
> ========================================================================
> Strata Rose Chalup [KF6NBZ]                      strata "@" virtual.net
> VirtualNet Consulting                            http://www.virtual.net/
>   ** Project Management & Architecture for ISP/ASP Systems Integration **
> =========================================================================
> _______________________________________________
> FoRK mailing list
> http://xent.com/mailman/listinfo/fork

More information about the FoRK mailing list