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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Why women may end up the majority in tech anyhow

For years, there've been efforts to encourage girls to consider careers in tech, with everything from "bring your daughter to work" days and girl-oriented code-a-thons. They haven't worked, likely because interested women could quickly see that tech didn't feel like a good fit.

Or maybe they have worked: Although women aren't getting degrees in the fields that lead into tech in any greater numbers than before, the number of women in the field has nonetheless risen, even if the number of men rose more. Now, suddenly, men comprise only 40 percent of new hires in 2013, as's analysis shows. It's not clear why, but the phenomenon has been consistent all year, so it's not likely a quirk, notes Rachel Ceccarelli, a senior associate at Dice. One possibility is that women are entering tech through other avenues, such as being subject matter experts in health care where tech implementations are now growing rapidly.

Then there's the allure of a good paycheck and steady demand in an economy that has not recovered from the 2006 meltdown. "Tech has been a good place to be -- relative to other professions. That message was loud in 2009 and hasn't let up. ... Companies have actively recruited tech talent, boasting high paychecks and alluring perks to all tech professionals. With a low unemployment rate and variety of options, women and men are aware of the benefits of a STEM-related career," she notes. (STEM means "science, technology, engineering, and math.") In other words, the pull on women for tech may becoming greater than the push away for tech, even if echoes of the historical "science isn't for girls" theme persist.

My own thesis is that IT's evolution away from the back-end data center to so-called front-office efforts in sales, marketing, product support, logistics, and so on is the reason women are poised to make hge gains in tech employment. Look at where women tend to dominate in tech jobs: project managers and business analysts -- precisely the kinds of jobs that the front-office focus needs. Men tend to dominate in jobs such as network administration, which automation, cloud, and offshoring all threaten to wipe out. Men also dominate in software development, where the demand far outstrips supply, keeping men happily employed -- and providing women a big opportunity, if they can handle its boy's-club culture.

Unfortunately, my thesis isn't provable. The data isn't available and won't be for a few years, given the several-year lag in the federal labor data at this level of detail. Maybe women will finally grow their presence in tech as the nature of tech changes. Or maybe we're in an anomalous period that will renormalize to tech's historical male character.

Tech is better with women in it -- but tech needs women more than women need tech.

This article, "Bye-bye, boys' club? Why the new IT may be a woman's world," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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