The Stack Archive

Women in technology. Is the attention this subject gets sexism in itself?

Thu 3 Jul 2014

Women in technology. If there was ever a topic for a white man born in Guildford to write about, this is definitely it. Discrimination has been a constant watchword for me. At school I found myself not picked for the rugby team because I was too small, too cowardly and too lazy, so I think we’ve pretty much established I’ve faced my fair share of turmoil. Ok so that was a lie, I have faced no form of discrimination my entire life – but I’m doing this anyway.

This week the BCS –Chartered Institute of IT, have released the results of a survey they commissioned entitled ‘Women in IT’ and before I go into some of the findings from this it is worth being aware that in 2013 only one in six people working as IT specialists in the UK were women. It is also worth noting that this statistic is slightly higher than the European average. Not that we’re bragging.

The BCS survey report when looked at in little detail has some nice touches and whilst I could go over the headline stats ‘79% of IT professionals feel that IT industry would benefit from having more women in IT roles’ it’s the details that really shine through when you split this between responses across the sexes.
The above question had the multiple choice responses available of ‘Yes, No or Not Sure’. Sit back in your chairs for the shocking result that not one woman answered the question with a no. 9% of men did however. If you work in an IT department right now, one in ten of the guys in your office is sat there thinking ‘hold fire, 16% is enough’.

Do you think this is an issue? Probably. But it is worth also noting the number of girls who study Computer Science at A level is dramatically lower than the number of boys, even if the ones that do get better results. This then begs the question of whether the companies or the education providers are the ones at fault, or if women in general don’t like the idea of working in IT?

Whichever way we look at this it seems clear that something isn’t quite right. The media’s response to this has been to do exactly what I’m doing today, get on our white steeds and charge at the male dominated tech industry with all our might (FYI I’m asking those at work to now refer to me as ‘The Saviour of Women’ – it hasn’t picked up yet but I’m pretty convinced it will soon).

This has resulted in every successful woman in technology ever being interviewed on ‘being a successful woman in tech’. It has also resulted in numerous events hosted by a successful woman in technology entitled ‘How to succeed in technology whilst being a woman’.

I might be missing something here but the chances of me going to an event entitled ‘Being a successful man in Digital Media’ are pretty slim. Fortunately this is something I’m never going to need to worry about as no one will ever organise one.
I’m probably going to get some flak for this but here goes anyway. What if instead of making the point of the event, or the interview about how someone succeeded ‘whilst being a woman’ this bit was left out completely? Why can’t the story just be about an important figure in tech succeeding?

The problem with these articles, or these events, is that whilst these women may be brilliant, the title is going to prevent men from either attending or reading. And as I think the survey above highlights, it isn’t women (over the age of 20) who need more convincing there should be more women in IT.

As a result of this I have set a policy on TheStack which will involve us not asking female contributors patronising questions on how they succeeded ‘despite being a woman’. If anyone, male or female, has any interesting or topical contributions they would like to bring to TheStack we are, as always open to suggestions. Feel free to email me directly with anything that is not a death threat.

Phil Cooper
Head of TheStack.com and Data Centre Management Magazine
Phil.cooper@closerstillmedia.com

NB. Parts of this article were tested on real life women prior to the publication of this article. TheStack.com can confirm no women were harmed in the production of this article but Phil did get sworn at. A lot.

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