Women in High Tech

I know a lot of really good people in software development from around the world.  I’m fortunate to have spent face-to-face time with many of these people.  These people bring great value to our industry.

One thing that was apparent again at the MVP Summit is the heavy male attendance on the software development side.

The point was made a couple of times and some tweets flowed about it a few times.  Is it a good-old-boy’s network?  Are software development leaders dominated by the “Alpha Male”.  Are women simply not willing to put up with any of us?  I personally don’t know.

What I do know is that, as a community, we’re not better off for it.  Women bring a sense of communication that is lacking by many men in the software development industry.  MVPs are generally exceptional in this respect; but they’re not immune.

I have a couple of challenges of my readers.  I challenge my readers to foster and mentor more women in software development.  I also challenge my readers to help point out women in software that should be

If you know a woman in high-tech that you believe should be recognized just as much as any “Alpha Male”; please point them out.  Use this blog if you like, or call them out on your own blog—detail why you think they’re leaders in our industry and deserve recognition.

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10 thoughts on “Women in High Tech

  1. I definitely noticed the lack of females in the software development sessions – in most of the sessions I attended, I was one of a handful female devs. In one session, I was the only female.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by some awesome guys – both in the IT realm and the development realm. Because of their support and encouragement, I’ve been able to thrive in our industry.

    It would be great to see a better balance in the male to female ratio in tech. Maybe one day we’ll see it…

  2. In my “Computers and Society” course in college (which was taught by a female), we discussed this topic at length.

    I have to say that the primary reason is simply this: there is a smaller percentage of women who are interested in CS. At least in my college, any woman in a CS degree (or math degree) got almost their entire college paid for, just because of their sex.

    What would a “better ratio” be? If the current ratio reflects the ratio of interest, then there is no need to change it.

    This can be a controversial subject. My fellow women students all agreed with my point of view; however, our teacher was absolutely convinced that there was some kind of secret anti-female discrimination going on. She gave me the lowest passing grade, simply because I spoke the truth.

    I agree that it would be better for the tech community to get a higher percentage of females than are currently present (for the reasons you described). However, I’ve never seen discrimination in the CS field yet (against females, anyway).

    It’s simply that fewer women *want* to be programmers.

  3. I do agree with Stephen that a large issue with a lack of women in software is a lack of interest, but I must disagree that because it is the “woman’s choice” than the status quo is okay.

    A lot of women are not interested in going into comp sci because they have the perception that it is a “boy’s thing”–a perception that will be hard to disagree with if women continue to not enroll. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

    There is a lot of evidence that women rely more on mentorship and social connections than men, I think if we want to increase women in comp sci, we may need to develop more programs for this. Since we have all agreed that it is in the industry’s best-interest to recruit more women, this would be a wise investment.

  4. Robin said ‘A lot of women are not interested in going into comp sci because they have the perception that it is a “boy’s thing”‘

    I couldn’t disagree more. Most women are not interesting in the slightest becoming professional programmers (which is what most people see comp sci as the path to, even though for most tasks a CS education is horribly inferior to a CompE or HMI specialization) because they don’t want to work alone with a machine for 80%+ of each work week. If you want to change the ratio of women programmers, you have to make debugging into a social occasion. (Of course this isn’t an issue for ALL women, but it is for many)

    Guys are just much more willing, on average, to mentally wrestle with a machine for hours to gain dominance over their code.

  5. I think there’s a certain truth to CS being a “boys thing”. Although, I think we’re not better for that perception. I think our industry needs to be more open, accepting, and promoting of women.

    I think Ben details a very good point. I think many women don’t want to get into our industry because of the inherent lack of communication. Something I think our industry fails at in general. There’s some very good methodologies and some leaders in our industry that are exceptions to the rule; but for the most part our industry seems to be dominated by people that, for the most part, don’t want to or don’t like to have face-to-face communications.

    I think we need to push our industry harder towards more face-to-face communications. We’re generally building software for other people; if we don’t communicate with them we’re doomed to failure.

    But, I don’t think women are any less capable or any less willing to approach the problem solving our industry performs; there’s various other aspects that aren’t attracting women…

  6. I must agree with PeterRitchie when he said “I think our industry needs to be more open, accepting, and promoting of women.”

    I think there is no argument that most of the time woman’s brain works different from man’s brain. The problem I see from the personal experience is that all the training materials, designs, and approaches are created by men, and don’t necessary fit to majority of women. Another issue is that in our industry most leadership is predominantly male as well; as I recall it was difficult for my managers and supervisors to understand completely different approach that I take working on my projects; most of the time my ideas were dismissed. I had to work extra hard to produce outstanding results in order for my supervisor recognize that different approach doesn’t mean – wrong or erroneous approach.
    I don’t think that women are not interested in IT professions because it’s “boys thing” or because they have to spend 80% of the time to “mentally wrestle” the machine. I think it’s society that teaches little girls that all they can be is teachers or nurses, not that there is anything wrong with those professions, but little girls are not encouraged to spend time studying sciences.

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