Friday, September 14, 2007

Women and IT

I got a great comment from Surya, who used to be a Senior Consultant at NPower NY, regarding my "I HATE Technology" post. Here's what she said.

"Jocelyn, great blog! But doesn't this point that you make - 'Technology IS frustrating unless you are hardwired in a very specific way. And I think for women in particular it's something we struggle with.' - reinforce some of the barriers you seek to bring down? Is the expert use of technology as a tool in the nonprofit sector, a learned/learnable skill (nurture) or a product of nature?"
This has lead me to some research and soul-search regarding what I see as two separate questions. 1) Are technical skills genetic or can they be learned? and 2) Are women less technical than men?

I have to say, I do think people are hardwired differently. Some of us are more inclined toward careers in science, while other folks prefer to participate in the arts. On the other hand, according to National Center for Women and Information Technology, gender roles (which are not pre-determined) play an important part in the jobs women and men "self select." (See this paper.) Thanks, Surya for reminding me that the jobs we "choose" aren't solely our own choice.

With that said, the IT profession IS male dominated and there are many folks out there with a mission to change this.

According to NCWIT's research,
  • 51 percent of professional occupations in the 2006 U.S. workforce are held by women
  • 26 percent of professional IT-related occupations in the 2006 U.S. workforce are held by women
  • 13 percent of corporate officer positions at Fortune 500 technology companies held by women
(I can only imagine what these numbers are for women of color!)

Your thoughts?

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