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Gender Gap Continues to Increase in IT: Gartner

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Dec 14, 2006 |

A recent report on the gender gap in IT, Gartner Advises IT Leaders to Recognise Complementary Gender Strengths states that women with their superior communication and listening skills -- are "innately better suited than men" to navigate the new global economy. The unfortunate reality is that women are either not choosing to enter the field or are leaving. Gartner predicts that by 2012, 40 percent of women in the IT workforce will leave traditional IT career paths.

The dwindling interest in the software industry is pervasive and not isolated to one gender. According to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles (see College Students Continue to Shun Computer Science), the percentage of incoming students interested in majoring in computer science has plummeted over the last four years. Between the fall of 2000 and the fall of 2004, the percentage dropped by 60% and now is 70% lower than its peak in the early 1980s.

One bright spot on the horizon is the increasing interest in agile software development practices. The attendance at Agile 2006 was 1159, a 60% increase over the number for Agile 2005, 701. Since no one tracks gender representation, it’s difficult to show that the number of women attendees is also growing. Linda Rising, who’s attended many of the recent Agile conferences, as well as a variety of other IT conferences, offers an anecdotal observation gender patterns in conference registrations:

In my opinion there are more women attendees at agile events. This is encouraging to me. Not only because it shows that agile approaches involve the diversity that women bring to an organization, but that teams are becoming more effective by building on broader strengths, that may have been lacking or not appreciated in teams in the past.

If you’re not a Gartner client, here are some pointers to commentary on related Gartner reports: CIOs Need Mix of Male and Female Staffers for New Business Environment; Gartner: Firms at Risk of Losing Women Technologists.

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they take one look at the "blogosphere" by Michael Neale

And go running. And rightly so. Its a testosterone laden world of My Framework is Better then Yours and Your Language Sux You Worthless Worm world out there. No balanced person would want any part of it.

Not so surprising by Bruce Rennie

I always knew women were smarter than men.

Re: Not so surprising by Deborah Hartmann

Ah, the reply of a wise man. Whether he believes it or not :-D

Re: they take one look at the "blogosphere" by Marc Stock

It's true that there's too much sabre rattling in our business but if you can't handle it then don't create a framework. That's kinda easy to avoid.

I think the fact that they are fleeing this line of work kinda proves the point that they aren't "innately better suited than man" at least in regards to software development. A lot of the women I've worked with in the past who were developers seemed to gravitate to the project manager role after a while. (I honestly can't blame them because this job is a royal pain in the ass most of the time.) Perhaps they are better suited to that? My two favorite managers (yes I know the notion of such a thing is abhorant to most) of all time were women so more power to them, imo. And it wasn't because they were stereotypical "great listeners" either.

Re: they take one look at the "blogosphere" by Janet Moyer

I am a woman and have been in I/T for over 30 years. I've noticed an increase in sexist attitudes among young male I/T workers over the last 5 years or so.

Why is this happening? What are they learning in colleges?

There have always been more men than women in I/T, but the men were educated and intelligent, and tended to be more gender-blind.

Lots of gaps in IT by Cameron Purdy

Judging from what I see at conferences, at customers, and when we interview potential employees, it's not just women that are under-represented, but a number of minority groups as well. Add to that the fact that there are just not enough CS graduates coming out of schools, and I think we (as an industry) have a real problem. We need to do a better job "recruiting" into the Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering professions, starting in school. From the studies that I've read, it continues to get worse (at least here in the states), with many students avoiding the career because of the fear of out-sourcing.

Oh, and of course, we're recruiting right now :-)

Peace,

Cameron Purdy
Tangosol Coherence: The Java Data Grid

Re: they take one look at the "blogosphere" by Rebecca Gardner

I am a woman in IT for 20 years now and I must agree with Janet about the attitudes of the young IT males and this odd unfounded cockieness that does not match their experience or abilities. Completing Halo2 on Legendary does not make you a good coder. LOL

However, I have spent the last two years in the greatest job of my career. Yes, I am the only female in IT, but I work with a group that not only respects my experience but as the Development Lead I a have complete control over the projects. Once I proved myself they began to appreciate the feminine approach to my coding and give me free reign with creativity lacking in the Matter-Of-Fact style of men.

I wish more women got into IT because if they saw how creative coding can be they would probably really enjoy it. I know I do.
~becca

why this fixation? by will gage

I see this issue brought up again and again in IT publications, especially the ACM ones. Is this really such an issue? I assume that for women who are passionate about working in IT, the gender imbalance can work in their favor once they get past the two-bit companies that tolerate sexist attitudes.

And speaking of sexist attitudes, doesn't the quote: "women with their superior communication and listening skills -- are 'innately better suited than men' to navigate the new global economy," strike anyone else as a supremely sexist statement? Kind of cuts both ways, doesn't it? Men are apparently bad communicators but good analytical thinkers, while women are apparently good communicators but bad analytical thinkers. Whatever.

I'm happy to have women working on any software team that I'm on and I generally assume that we're all on a level playing field.

The IT job future is not looking good for US workers in general by Jerry Lettow

As a CS degreed 15 year vet in IT and the father of an college bound student, why would I steer my daughter into a profession when my own experience over the past 5 years has been one of stagnated wages, workforce reductions, and outsourcing? Let's face it, there is no real IT job future here in the US.

Re: they take one look at the "blogosphere" by Michael Neale

Thats good to hear. I think you are all to rare. Things do seem to be getting worse in this regard.

Ironically, the few women I have worked with were kind of professionally "dispassionate" (which can be a good thing) which actually helped the project, allowed cool headed decisions !

But again, I am gender generalising.

For sure, development is creative (at least the type worth doing) VERY much so. I am amazed that more people don't do it.

Good luck !

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