Women in IT debate

April 2014

Rebecca George, Gillian Arnold and Sue Sumner recently took part in a roundtable discussion about the lack of women in IT. The discussion forms part of the Institute’s month long campaign to encourage women of all ages, from young students to women returners, to consider a career in IT and join the profession.

Part 1


Part 2

Comments (4)

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  • 1
    Simon wrote on 9th Jun 2014

    Colour, creed, sex are all irrelevant. The best person for the role should get the role. Please Please Please don't dilute this debate with "women are better at.." sentences. Thats why we are in this mess now and it serves not purpose than to provide more sexism! This is no different than saying "white men are better at", it's a weak argument.
    Inclusive IT is the way forward everyone benefiting and paid on performance.

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  • 2
    Gillian Arnold wrote on 10th Jun 2014

    Simon - I agree - inclusive IT is very much the way forward. I know that the UK will be much better off if we can have true diversity at all levels of IT companies and IT departments. Sadly, over the years, there has been a decline in the number of females working in the industry. At one time, we had a reasonable percentage of women in the sector (>22%) - they made up a large group of women programmers and analysts, and anecdotally, many of these women came from roles in the punch-rooms of old. We are now at a position where women make up less than 16-18% of the IT population (depending on how you calculate it) and we lose many trained women from the industry.

    I am not sure how I feel about the 'women are better at' and 'men are better at' statements - I know that there is a lot of mock-scientific literature written about the subject. What I am clear on is that women are socialised differently as children and that will mean that they do like to listen more, chat more etc, and are more willing to show a caring side. I really enjoyed a piece of research by Beverley Alimo-Metcalfe some years ago which suggested that females were more likely to use Transformational management styles than Transactional ones - and that that made for more comfortable working lives for their staff. There is also plenty of research about the benefits of diversity within organisations and how it can bring better EBIT, better share price and better profits.....oh and much much more research supporting diversity in the workplace.

    Finally - on the 'best person for the role' argument - I would like to agree with you. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen in industry. The people who get the roles when jobs and promotions are on offer are often the individuals who have been most visible to the hirer or - those who display the same characteristics as the hiring manager.....and they are therefore not always the best people for the job. We have some way to go to ensure that our managers are trained to avoid hiring in their own image, and trained to ask for a diverse selection of CVs when they are hiring. That way - the UK PLC can benefit from the diversity that is on offer.

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  • 3
    Rachel Johnson wrote on 18th Aug 2014

    How strange. This year I worked for one of the UK retail banks baled-out by the government (that's us, the public actually).

    The Bank has removed most of its technical women from database support, Unix and desktop services. This has been principally because of conflicts with the vast numbers of Indian males imported-in to take roles previously performed by UK and European workers.

    Consequently because of gender and cultural issues, something had to give, and hence the women were removed; with either attractive redundancy payments or being shifted to other roles on similar benefits.

    Strangely enough the Bank repeatedly receives awards for its promotion of female careers in the workplace - whilst actively pursuing a policy to remove 'technical' women from it.

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  • 4
    Dee Tippett wrote on 5th Nov 2014

    Having just watched both these sessions and Gillian's presentation at the Women in IT event, I miss one point: I don't even APPLY for certain roles.
    I totally agree that women are different: not better or worse in general, better at some things, not as good as others. More women would, of course, be better - balance is good, right?
    But we do act differently, we are less confident and we really can't "play the game" as well as men.
    Why? Because it's fueled by testosterone (indeed, the Boy's Club) and we'd really rather just get on with DOING stuff because we find "the game" a terrible waste of valuable time. Is that the glass ceiling, yes, I suppose it is to a certain extent, but it's also because something we do to ourselves (perhaps few of us admit it) because we feel the personal battle is not worth the cost.
    To support the statistics, I graduated in Computing Science in 1986 as one of 8 women in a class of about 40. And a totally unscientific search on LinkedIn found women represent 5% of people in the UK with a similar job title to myself.

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