Bye-bye, boys' club? Why the new IT may be a woman's world

A lot of hand-wringing over female participation in tech may be moot as the nature of tech changes

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Where women succeed in tech today

The typical areas where women succeed are the business systems analyst, project manager, and other management positions, notes Schlocker. "We have more of the skills that make us successful in this area: Strong organizational skills, communications, and the ability to understand what a business client needs."

Sandra agrees: "Women generally seem to fit better and excel in roles where organizational and interactivity skills combined with structure are part of the job. The technical task would be a means to the end done in an orderly manner with consideration to the audience, and it can be worked by a cohesive team if that is what is required -- not a one-man show."

By contrast, infrastructure-oriented tech jobs are hard for women, Schlocker notes: "It is 24/7, so it offers no flexibility. Flexibility is key for women, and the women who chose careers with less flexibility have to work even harder as they balance career and family issues. That is why I believe you don't see more women in infrastructure. Also, it is more of a 'man's world' and therefore much more difficult for a woman to be accepted -- too many bad sexist jokes and other things that make a woman uncomfortable."

Of course, there are women in tech who have joined the industry by choice and thrive in it -- as with anything human, there's a range of individuals, so generalizing is dangerous. Still, the typical woman avoids tech and has been doing so for decades, even as the typical woman has actively sought entry into many other male-dominated fields.

So do we just accept that the tech industry is not appealing to most women and move on? Maybe. The tech industry does a lot of amazing things the way it's currently constituted, so why mess with it?

On the other hand, women bring in different approaches that are now less exploited in the male-oriented tech industry. If you believe that data science is a key engine of technology, thanks to the big data movement, you need more women involved in the profession. If you believe that person-facing tech -- the "consumerization of IT" notion -- is the right approach to tech design and deployment, you need more women invoved in the profession. If you believe that coopetition is a better model in a technology world of interconnected systems, you need more women involved in the profession. The NFL's McKenna notes, "Women have very interesting perspectives on how to solve technology challenges such as consumerization of IT, mobility, and collaboration."

Ironically, McKenna has found that although there's a desire to include more women in positions of leadership, the system works against that desire: "I understand that boards of directors who have more than one woman have found great increases in board collaboration and risk management, yet women still lag men significantly in board seats. ... They really want women, and technology experience is highly valued, but without [prior] board experience you must be a former CEO of CFO, not a CIO. Opinions like this are why women don't enter and stick with technology."

She can't help but wonder if being a woman in tech has limited her career opportunities: "I love what I do. But I have to wonder had I stuck with finance, surely I would have made it CFO and would be a candidate for board seats."

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