Gender in IT, a Different View
I try to keep my blog tech-only, but I couldn’t resist.
I read a post by Elizabeth Naramore yesterday about gender in IT
There are so many thoughts that I just couldn’t explain in a single comment on her blog, so I decided to write an article about it. Before you read it, know that my intention is simply to share my own point of view. I don’t have many facts to back up my claims. I’m just an observer. Know that I might be very harsh in my opinions, but I mean no disrespect to anyone. Feel free to disagree with me.
Being the only female developer in every single job, I have not personally experienced any discrimination related to my gender, nor do I know another woman who can give me a concrete example of her experiencing discrimination. I’m starting to believe that it’s an urban legend. Nobody ever saw it, except in the movies, and people keep saying it exists because everybody else is saying it. If you ever experienced such discrimination, by all means, tell me!
Are women really paid less than men? I remember being better paid than most men for an equivalent position in certain companies. Will someone promote a man rather than a woman simply because of gender? I never encountered such a problem. In fact, I don’t remember a single man get a promotion before me. A manager has no interest in promoting a man who has less skills than a woman. If he does that, then he doesn’t understand the concept of return on investment. If you think otherwise, let me know!
What about sexists remarks? I can’t remember a single remark that I deemed offensive towards my gender. I actually find myself making comments such as “these women can’t drive” and “these men drink so much”. Some stereotypes are true, others are not. In any case, stereotypes should not be considered offensive. When he yells to me “go home and wash your dishes” after almost running me over while he has a red light and I’m carrying a baby, I’ll get offended. But this is extreme and doesn’t happen in a work environment.
Parenting and household duties
Yes, women take care of children. I did too. I had to pause my IT studies for a whole year. When I got back to school, I ended up with people who were 1 year younger. I graduated at the same time and got the exact same job as everybody else. At what point did I get behind? I’m still ahead of all those who haven’t finished their studies, or finished their studies after me. Even she who did not have a kid will be behind those who are older than her, that’s just natural.
Yes, women inherit most of the household duties. First, this has nothing to do with IT. Second, she better educate her husband to help her out. She does have a full-time job after all.
We all agree that there are less women than men in IT. Having a more balanced team might help. I personally don’t like working with other women. Whenever there’s more than one woman in the room, decisions take ages. I also find it easier to give orders to a man, because a woman is naturally resistant when orders come from another woman. At least so I witnessed.
Now I heard that the percentage of women in IT keeps dropping. But maybe not all women are shaped to be in IT. Maybe IT in 1990 had different requirements. I was too young back then, so I don’t know. But, we can’t assume that it was the same. Perhaps it had requirements that both men and women could satisfy equally, and it’s no longer the case?
Are men different from women?
Of course they are! Now I’m mostly talking about myself, but a psychologist-sexologist (Yvon Dallaire) feels the same. Women make a big deal of small things. Women need to be comforted. Women need to talk about their feelings. Women won’t do something that will hurt someone’s feelings. These are just a few examples.
IT companies are implicitly looking for people who can handle stress. You might disagree but women tend to stress more (I just look at my mother for one second). Not all women can cope with the pressure. Even I sometimes struggle with changing requirements a day before the deadline. It is a stressful profession. I don’t know if that’s just an impression, but it seems to me that men can recover faster from work. They can sleep 6 hours and they’re top-shape, while I need up to 9 hours. That can certainly give them an advantage and discourage some women.
On the other hand, they’re not so different! Our interests are not necessarily shaped by our gender. I played with both dolls and guns when I was a kid. I had a passion for technology since I saw that Commodore MAX at a christmas party when I was 5. I couldn’t stop playing snake and chess until I fell asleep in front of it. So it’s wrong to assume that only boys like video games and thus are predisposed for IT.
Although my son seems to enjoy video games more than the girls his age, I don’t believe that it has anything to do with gender. My father is an electrician that likes gadgets. He’d buy one for himself, then give it to me to play with once he’s done with it. I do the same with my kid. I didn’t buy the X-Box, the Wii and the DS for him, but he eventually ended up with it. Maybe if those girls had access to a computer earlier, we would have seen more geekgirls. We just assume that girls don’t like video games and computers, so we don’t buy them one. Then we wonder why they don’t like them more.
Why not go into IT?
Why do we see so little women in IT? Think of the problem the other way around. We keep talking about gender discrimination and how we need to be sensitive about this topic. A woman who is choosing her career path might consider IT. Then she hears all this chatter about how it sucks to be a woman in IT, how others feel uncomfortable with so many men around, how they’re paid less than men and how she’ll never be a geekgirl. That ought to scare her. Of course she’ll pick administration! People say it’s nice and balanced! It sounds to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think about it. Maybe we’re losing women because we keep talking about all these nightmares.
I’ll give you a personal example. I went for an interview in a PHP shop. There were 40 male developers and not a single woman. I didn’t know that until I was told so by the interviewer. He said “it will be nice to have a woman for a change”. I felt pressure. I didn’t want to take a job just because I’m a woman and because they need to maintain appearance. Had he not told me that, I might not have noticed it on my first month on the job. But because he did tell me, I felt different. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to receive a promotion and wonder “did he just give it to me because I’m a woman?” I refused the job.
Another example. My boss would come in every meeting saying “hi guys”. Then he would pause and add “… and gals”. It infuriated me. Why this special accommodation? Does a blind man want to get ahead of the line at a bus stop because of what he is? He doesn’t want to be pitied or differentiated! We wants to be treated like everybody else! I know it because one blind man told me so. Maybe if we stopped paying attention to gender, then women will stop paying attention to the fact that they’re the only woman in a room full of men.
I do not like to be treated differently. I do not like hearing people (both men and women) complain about the female situation. It makes IT less appealing. Men, don’t remind me that I’m the only female developer that you ever worked with. You probably don’t want me to remind you that you’re the only male receptionist that I ever met.
I strongly believe that making this into such a big deal is the reason why this problem exists in the first place. You may disagree, and I welcome any comments.