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Women in IT

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  • 1. Women in IT: Does the Shortage Matter?New research from IDG Connect looks at perceptions of women inIT, what the gender imbalance means for the industry in 2013 and beyond, and whether it is likely to have an impact on innovation.Global IT Report February 2013
  • 2. Contents:Introduction 3Is There a Shortage? 4Why the Lack of Women? 5 - Is it an Image Problem? 6What is the Perceived Impact? 7 - Are Different Thought Processes a Good or Bad Thing? 8Conclusion 9 2
  • 3. Women in IT: Does the Shortage Matter?From the lack of women in senior positions to the shortage of male nurses and primary school teachers; genderinequality in the workplace is well documented. However, in recent years there has been a special emphasis placed onthe lack of women in IT. Cynics argue this is inevitable now that IT is fast becoming the most important departmentin the enterprise. Whilst equality zealots maintain that any imbalance is unfair and should be stamped out at all costs.But should we really care if fewer women are attracted to IT roles?If women aren’t interested in IT careers there is no reason to hold a gun to their heads and force them to into workthey don’t want to do. Yet this whole subject is extremely divisive. A straw poll we ran on our website showed thatout of 242 respondents, 56% say the IT industry can survive without women whilst 44% believe it can’t. And when weconducted more research to investigate further, we found that 60% of 400 IT Professionals interviewed believe thatthe gender imbalance is negative thing. Can the IT industry survive without women? Yes No 44% 56% 24% 60% overall think the unequal overall think the unequal balance of women makes balance of women is no difference negative 16% overall think the unequal balance of women is positive 22% of men and 8% women think it’s positiveThe full findings reveal some pretty passionate views on every aspect of the debate. These cover: whether there isa shortage; if there is one, why this is the case; right through to the perceived impact of any shortage. Responsesare very varied: 19% of those surveyed do not believe there is a shortage at all, although 66% work in a departmentwhere less than a quarter of employees are female. The reasons cited for fewer women in IT range from the 36%of female respondents who feel the shortage is down to a perception problem for women; to the 27% of malerespondents who believe women don’t generally think in the way IT requires. The implications of this genderimbalance are also highly debated, with 22% of male respondents feeling it is (overall) a good thing.But emotional responses aside, as IT and the role of the CIO become increasingly crucial to all departments in theenterprise, will this lack of women in IT have a general effect on innovation? During the course of this short report wewill analyse the results and discuss the potential impact of this trend on the industry as a whole. 3
  • 4. Is There a Shortage?Over the last decade, a new generation of women have become more ambitious and career-minded than everbefore. A Marie Claire survey published in October 2012 showed that three quarters of twenty and thirty-somethingrespondents cite work as either ‘very important or the ‘single most important thing in their lives. On top of this, Citireported that 36% of women it polled recently didnt factor marriage into their definition of ‘having it all, and 27%didnt include children. But with so many women prioritising work, why on earth arent more pursuing careers in IT?Our research shows that the majority of those IT professionals we surveyed (66%) work in a department where lessthan a quarter of employees are female and 36% work in an environment where less than 10% are female. However,19% do not believe there is a shortage of women. It would appear the whole subject is a question of perception. “ Overall, I think there is no shortage of women in IT; however there are too few women in ” management positions. “ The current historical male dominance of the industry (caused by childbearing disadvantages) creates unhealthy balance in the profession. Men prefer to employ men, someone they feel they can relate to better at the personal level. Women select the better person for the job; whether this is a man or a woman. ”Perhaps more concerning for the long-term, numerous studies suggest young girls simply arent interested in IT. Thisis despite the growing population of “gadget girls”, the clear potential of IT as a career, and the fact that numerousstudies suggest that IT is crying out for more talent. What is the reason for this? In some initial articles we ran on ourwebsite around the subject, the majority of people who voiced an opinion seemed to either believe women don’tthink in the right way for IT, or that the industry suffers from a massive image problem.What proportion of your department is made up of women? No of women in IT department: Less than 10% 10% - 25% 25% - 50% More than 50% Survey results: 36% 30% 25% 9% 4
  • 5. Why the Lack of Women?When we surveyed 400 global IT professionals and asked why they feltthere was a shortage of women in IT, only 30% of those who believedthere was a shortage thought it was an image problem and only 20% felt 27% 9%“women (generally) don’t think in the way IT requires”. 50% attributed it toother reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, splits varied by gender, with 36% ofwomen surveyed feeling it was a perception problem.“ The “other” responses were Women think IT is not so appealing very varied and also differed ” and there are very few good by gender. Overall, female examples of great women techies. respondents attributed the shortage of womenin IT to education issues, lack of support during the child-rearing years Women (generally) don’t think in theand discrimination. Comments ranged from, “Most problems arise from way IT requires[women] not being encouraged to work [or] use computers. When they’reyoung they get dolls instead of cars” through to “[It is a] male dominatedindustry that can be intimidating for women (I am a CIO)”. “ 26% 36% The male respondents, on I believe women should best do something else, not suited to the ” the other hand, were often very emotional tensions related to IT. sympathetic to the difficulties of predominately male environments (“Hostile, unappealing and juvenile work environment”) whilst tending to place less emphasis on upbringing and child rearing, focusing instead on women’s lack of interest in IT. Some interesting comments included “Women don’t put up with the management crap that men do” Perception problem for women and “women who want to be in IT are in IT”, or “IT is generally an unemotional environment, generally not suited to women due to their emotional natures”. 47% 55% Both sexes offered some clichéd sexism on why women aren’t in IT. ? These ranged from the woman who suggested “Women are only interested in bitching about other women, gossiping and preferring easy jobs like HR management, primary school teachers etc” to the man who stated bluntly “women make terrible programmers”. However, there were also a number of people who thought the whole question was pointless, “The discussion is moot. We want the best people for IT, regardless of gender. There are no barriers stopping women joining IT – they just don’t want to. Why set artificial standards?” Other reasons 5
  • 6. Is it an Image Problem?Not so long ago IT definitely had a geeky image, but technological 26% 36%changes over the last decade have seen a seismic shift in theperception of technology. Tablets and smartphones are the definitiveaccessory; the iPad is so sexy that if you want, you can pay $6,900 todress it up in a designer David August case; Facebook founder MarkZuckerburg had a film made about him (even if it wasnt that flattering);and each new Apple product launch causes a quasi-religious frenzyin consumers and journalists alike. Whats more, the ‘Apple effect’ isstarting to touch other companies and products in the space. Howmany people got excited about Samsung ten years ago?Yet despite all this, IT does still seem to have a perception problem Perception problem for womenand girls who might otherwise go into IT careers are put off the idea.A 2009 study by Cisco found that 80% of girls want the chance to be 10%creative and independent in their work environment. However, only30% believed a job in ICT would let them do this. This seems baffling difference in opinionwhen much-bandied media terms such as "entrepreneur", "start-up" between the sexesand "innovation" have become synonymous with both creativity andtech.“ Whatever the reasoning; in the UK, Belinda Parmar, founder of Lady ” Entry level IT comes across as Geek, has attempted to tackle this image crisis head on with the launch mechanical and lacking creativity. of the new ‘Little Miss Geek’. Her aim, as her website states, is: "to do for the tech industry what Jamie Oliver did for [UK] school dinners; torealign attitudes from the ground up and bring about nationwide change. We want to inspire the next generation ofyoung girls to become tech pioneers."More interestingly, Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, has compiled her own research intowhy young women dont chose tech careers. This concluded: "Number one is they think its not interesting. Numbertwo, they think they wouldnt be good at it. Number three, they think they will be working with a number of peoplethat they just wouldnt feel comfortable or happy working alongside." Again, this comes down to image. Are scoresof women drawn to careers in events and PR (where you hardly find a single man) because theyre comfortable withthe environment? Does tech just make people think of ‘The IT Crowd’? Maybe HBO should commission a glamorous ITdrama with Megan Fox cast as the head geek? “The fact is, the lack of women in IT has become almost an ‘issue’ in itself.It appears they are now so few and far between that almost superhuman Other fields are more attractive to ”individuals seem to be sought to fulfil vacancies. As Martha Heller, women.President of a CIO recruitment company and author of ‘The CIO Paradox’explained, "Im going to say 80% of the searches that we do whether theyre at the CIO level or at the VP or directorlevel, will say to us, ‘If you could get us a woman thatd be really great. But the women I talk to are asking but notgetting those opportunities internally. So somewhere theres a serious disconnect - where on one hand youve gotwomen saying were not being considered and on the other, companies saying we want women." 6
  • 7. What is the Perceived Impact?Probably the most surprising statistic in this study was the sheer level of people who think that the lack of women inIT has a positive impact. This figure altered considerably by gender with nearly a quarter of men (22%) thinking it wasa positive thing compared to 8% of women.Most of the female respondents who shared this opinion didn’t give a reason, but the strongest answer was “80% ofwomen in the workforce are only interested in bitching about each other, personal politics (not corporate politics),playing the role of damsel-in-distress or any other means to avoid real work. I am myself a woman in a senior position,but fed up with work attitude of most women in the workforce”.How do male and female professionals view the shortage of women in IT? Positive Negative Positive Negative Lack of diversity impacts creativity 70% Lack of diversity impacts creativity 54% 8% 22% Few gave reasons Women are too emotional and not analyticalThe male respondents who thought the female shortage was positive tended to focus on how emotional and non-analytical women are perceived to be: “I have worked in the industry for over 13 years, managed many women on myteam. Women do not enjoy problem solving or analytical IT work.” There were also some overtly negative commentssuch as “Women ruin the chemistry of a department. It’s a business, not a social program. In general, womenalso make terrible managers because of their insecurities” or “Women tend to create unnecessary overheads byhaving to care for their (so-called) special needs, gender balance, guarding against any potential allegation of sexualharassment. They are also a distraction in the workplace by their wanting to be liked by men. Men also tend to spendmore time in catering to women’s veiled sexual needs and attention. In the presence of women one cannot speakone’s mind.”“ Those who opted for the neutral response (in both sexes) tended to Women usually have alternate focus on how skills are non-gendered and how it therefore doesn’t approaches to problem solving. make any difference whether there is an imbalance or not. As one Women who use computers and respondent explained, “When talking about software development it software focus on issues like does not matter who writes the code, the only matter is that it works usability and consistency, sadly ” (meets all requirements). Therefore we should not speak about lacking in most software programs. unequal balance” or as someone else put it, “sex is irrelevant – merit is all that should count” or “Professionalism counts, not gender”.Overall, most people generally felt the gender imbalance was negative and comments to support this from bothsexes tended to focus on how a lack of diversity impacts creativity, and how women’s skills can help “humanize” theindustry. There were quite a few negative comments about male-dominated workplaces such as “Men use everythingto make their own position better, sometimes projects suffer from this” or “Too much male ego, much less commonsense”. But most people addressed the benefits of diversity, “All job markets can use a balance of male and femaleapproaches”, “Women can complement men… we are leveraging just one side” or “A less diverse workplace is lesscreative and less responsive to diverse needs and opportunities”. 7
  • 8. Are Different Thought Processes a Good or Bad Thing?The research does show that over a quarter of male respondents (27%) believe that women just don’t think in theright way for a career in IT. As one gentleman commented on our website, “I don’t think women’s minds, in general,work the way IT demands. Have you ever listened to a few women talk? They can jump around with six or moredifferent unrelated subjects in a five minute conversation. It boggles my mind. I wonder if women’s minds are just notwired for the intense concentration and that is what is turning them away from IT.” 27% 9% “ There are lots of exceptions but I agree with the opinion that as a group women just think differently. In IT they do very well in roles such as training, working with end users, web design etc. For the most part though, they are either bored or just not good at the more technical areas. The “not good at” part could really just be the end result of the “bored” part. I’ve worked as a teacher and I’ve seen some come through that are really good and I’ve noticed two things about the ones that are great. They love tech and they tend to ” also have strong maths skills. Women (generally) don’t think in the way IT requires “ Women can often see problems and opportunities from 18% a different perspective. In my experience women are difference in opinion more attentive to detail. I feel that without women we between the sexes are in danger of missing opportunities to improve and ” develop.Whilst there is no disputing that men and women do tend to approach things in different ways, is this really such abad thing? As the IT department becomes more integral to every business, surely different approaches to thinking willbecome more and more important. As one respondent put it, “Women usually have alternate approaches to problemsolving. Women who use computers and software focus on issues like usability and consistency, sadly lacking in mostsoftware programs”.Perhaps it doesn’t actually matter if there is a gender imbalance in the industry but as one respondent explained “TheIT industry can continue to function without women. Nonetheless, women can make a valuable contribution by simplybringing a different perspective. Further I suspect that increased participation of women would raise the levels ofsocial conscience in the industry.” 8
  • 9. ConclusionThere is a strong case to be made that a gender imbalance in the IT workplace is irrelevant. The work will continueto get done irrespective of whether there is an equal mix of men and women to it. However, our findings do highlighta high rate of sexism in the industry with nearly a quarter of male respondents appearing to believe that the genderimbalance is a positive thing.Perhaps more alarmingly, as the IT industry continues to grow in importance within the wider business, apredominantly male staff base could have an overall impact on creativity and innovation. Our findings suggest that itis widely acknowledged that women bring a different mix of skills to the workplace - the area of contention seems tobe whether these differences are good or bad.Naturally a shortage of women in core roles will always attract a lot of attention within the wider media, but surelythe issue here is not about the progression of women as a group. The real question should be about whether womencan have a positive impact on the most important industry of the twenty-first century. However you look at this issueit will ultimately come down to viewpoint – but what does seem incredible is that a subject which has been discussedfor decades can still inspire such passionately diametric views today.About IDG ConnectIDG Connect is the demand generation division of International Data Group (IDG), the world’s largest technologymedia company. Established in 2005, it utilises access to 35 million business decision makers’ details to unitetechnology marketers with relevant targets from any country in the world. Committed to engaging a disparate globalIT audience with truly localised messaging, IDG Connect also publishes market specific thought leadership papers onbehalf of its clients, and produces research for B2B marketers worldwide. For more information visit:http://www.idgconnect.com/ 9

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