eWeek has an interesting article regarding women working in IT, or rather, women not working in IT. The article is, Where Did All the Girl Geeks Go?
A professor says he has only one girl in a computer science major class in 2008, down from 40 percent in 2000. What happened? eWEEK gets field experts to weigh in.
While women hold 51 percent of professional jobs in the United States, they make up only 26 percent of the IT work force, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Furthermore, fewer women worked in IT in 2008 than in 2000.
The article later discusses about the need to put more effort into convincing women that working with technology can be cool. This argument and others the article makes for how to get more women involved in IT and computer science is a problem. I don't know a single geek, whether male or female, that had to be convinced that technology is cool.
In the early 1980's I was part of my high school's computer club and I can't remember ever being called "cool" for being a geek. Despite the negative stereotypes, I not once considered removing myself from the computer lab. The passion geeks have for computers and other technology is a part of their core being. Whether you are a male geek or a female geek you are a geek because the voice within tells you to be so. Despite what the "experts" say, I believe you can't teach someone to become a geek; they just are.
Will we ever have women fully represented in the IT workforce in numbers that are proportion to their numbers in the general population? I don't know the answer to this, but I have my doubts. Despite all the efforts of the past 30 years, women just aren't showing up in the numbers we would like in computer science and engineering. Perhaps it is time that we begin to accept that men and women are different. Here in the United States we focus so much on treating people as equals that I sometimes think we have become blind to our differences.
While we should not generalize and stereotype by gender, I'll argue we shouldn't also ignore the differences. Those differences, whether genetic or social, do influence the choices we make and the careers we pursue. Can we not be happy that women make up at least a quarter of the IT work force? Do we really need to have half of the IT professionals be women before we say "nice job everyone"? Would men and women in the IT profession really want to work with someone who had to be convinced the IT was the profession for them?
None of my questions are meant to close the door for those women (and men) who want a career in information technology, computers, and science. However, do you keep the door open for those that never come knocking? I just think our resources as a society would be better spent improving the education for those that already want to enter these male dominated professions. Instead of spending our money and time convincing women to be geeks, why not spend that money helping those men and women that are already geeks become better at what they do? Let us not worry about increasing the number of women in information technology, but instead lets focus on how those women that are already there can make a difference.
Note: The author is married to a woman who spent 10 years in the Marines and she recently retired from active duty in the Air National Guard. The author also has a healthy viewpoint of women and quickly speaks against discrimination in the workforce. If you cheapen the discussion by labeling the author as "sexist", the author will have to ask his wife to beat up on you and convince you otherwise. The author will now excuse himself as he goes to clean the kitchen and do the laundry.
This article first appeared on CMS Report.