In her 1970s hit, Helen Reddy proclaimed that women were roaring in "numbers too big to ignore." But from where I stand, I can hardly detect a purr from the women in IT. Men send in their What's Hot picks, write Reader to Reader tips, and sometimes even appear on the cover. November's cover story, "Windows IT Pro Innovators Share Their Successes," highlights community innovators, all of which are--you guessed it--men. The innovators are deserving of their awards, but to me, the fellas' presence makes women's absence all the more noticeable. You can't convince me that there aren't many women working in IT or that they're not doing noteworthy things. So where are the women in Windows IT Pro?
Could this lack of women in our publications be a symptom of sexual discrimination in the IT workplace? (I know. I totally just went there.) In a world where it seems like discrimination accusations are on the tips of everyone's tongues, I really hate to throw in one of my own. But I can't help but consider this possibility after reading desse's comment on Megan Bearly's blog post "Motivating Women in the SQL Server Community," about the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Women in IT luncheon. desse says, "Upper managements still have difficulty accepting women as \[candidates\], usually for family-demand reasons. I will work as long as it takes to get things done. I always work at home after hours, but I do leave to handle taking kids to acting class or band or whatever activity they are involved in. In my current position, I will never be considered a real candidate in that fashion because they think I don't have the dedication to do what is needed, when really, I just don't have a wife to do all the familial duties for me."
Women's IT forum member valoriz seems to support this idea with her comment in the "Struggles" thread. She says, "I'm in California at a conservative Aerospace supplier in an IT role. I'm seeing a few women in IT managerial roles, but unfortunately \[they\] report that they are repeatedly left off the meeting invitations, their responsibilities are minor, and they feel as though there is still a 'good ol' boys club' in which they are not allowed. For me, I'm supporting an engineering group, which is very predominately male. The discrimination is rampant. I am repeatedly asked to take notes in meetings. I respectfully decline and recommend an administrative assistant. Change happens slowly in some areas compared to others. I hear the Government jobs are much more equitable. Here's hoping."
But what if I'm just making a mountain out of a male-hill? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) In her blog post Megan says that she "expected at least one of the women on the panel to say that she had to fight to be equal with her male coworkers." But nobody did. And in response to the article "Resources for Women in IT," an anonymous reader says, "We have to read about how women are all upset…. We are developing a society of promoting complaining so media like this can thrive over lack of providing essential material and skills to help improve us all and achieve more within this industry."Maybe we're trying too hard to be politically correct. The answer might be to just chill out and take after Mary B., self-proclaimed IT Granny, whose monitor bears a post-it note that reads
Offer no excuses
Give no apologies
Don't smile so much
She advises, "I'm American, but work in a country that is extremely "male biased". I've far surpassed my own expectations, and am well respected and considered one of the guys (and proud of it). Prove yourself first before expecting rewards. Good things come to those who have patience." Michelle A. Poolet seems equally in control of her surroundings and offers her perspective in a response to forum member Keatron:
I've found that if I act like a person and treat my colleagues like people, instead of differentiating based on gender, I get much farther, faster. It also helps that I'm the president of my own company... ;)
My thoughts: IT is still basically a man's world, and men and women absolutely DO think and act differently…. Your comments about not crying foul unless it truly is foul, be accountable, become an expert, learn to live with discrimination (turning it to your advantage if you get the chance)--they're all right on. In our society little girls are generally over-protected; we don't get to take the risks that little boys do as a part of growing up (unless you're a tomboy, like I was). As a result, when little girls grow up and become women, we need to shed the expectation that someone (namely, a man) will come to our rescue. It's not easy to do, but we're nothing if we're not adapable, so it can be done!
You tell me: Are women shut off from the IT community, or should I just shut up? Join the discussion at our Women in IT forum, comment on this blog post, or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.