"They call it the second shift," said Jerri Barrett, director of marketing at Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, who notes these women might be doing their business job at home into the night but their lack of visibility at the office made it look like they aren't involved.
The researchers found a third of the women interviewed had decided to delay having children in order to achieve their career goals, while 18 percent of men indicated the same. And for the sake of their jobs, 9 percent of the surveyed women decided to forego children completely, compared with 3.5 percent of men.
Men and women alike largely agreed the Silicon Valley/Bay Area high-tech work experience was decidedly anti-family. And for women, this also meant a sense their careers were stalling. In fact, women were stereotyped as "family focused" and "unwilling to travel, and are more likely than men to be passed over for promotions," concluded the report.
"The high-tech work pace is so extreme that academic researchers refer to it as a work-family 'conflict' rather than work-family balance," the report noted. "Work-family conflict hits women at the mid-level especially hard. When the demands of family life are irreconcilable with work responsibilities, women are often forced to choose between work and family life in this 'all or nothing' proposition. … When it comes to providing opportunities for technical women, high-tech firms lag sharply behind those in other sectors."
The Stanford/Anita Borg Institute report offered few answers besides "flextime" and "mentoring" to keep women from deserting Silicon Valley high-tech jobs; the report notes other research indicates women are jumping ship at rates far higher than men.
But women who have managed to conduct tech-oriented careers across industry, academia and venture-capital firms tend to be enthusiastic advocates for it because their chosen fields are often exciting, sometimes lucrative and encourage innovation.
"I'm part of the advanced technology group and we do the software development," says Grace Egan, vice president of engineering product management at Time Warner Cable in Broomfield, Colo. The goal for Egan is managing the in-house engineering team, sometimes working in parallel with outside vendors, to work with business management to come up with new digital services, such as networked DVR. "It's cool," she says.
It doesn't particularly bother Egan that most of her career, which includes stints at Prodigy Services and MCI, she has been one of the few women in a male-dominated field — just as the handful of women engineers on her staff of 50 are today.
"I had four brothers and played a lot of sports," says Egan, a mother of two. "You build confidence in yourself. Sometimes you do look around the room and say, 'I'm the only lady here.' But you just become one of the players."
Nonetheless, women in IT acknowledge they find a kind of refuge in women-only conferences, such as next month's Women's Executive Forum, run by Joyce Brocaglia, CEO of recruiting firm AltaAssociates, which specializes in IT security recruitment on the executive level.
"I look forward to it because it's one of the best networking events," says Maria Cirino, managing director of Boston-based venture capital firm .406 Ventures (.406 being a reference to the batting average of legendary Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams). Williams "wouldn't swing at just anything that came at him in the strike zone," says Cirino, who says she and her two business partners, Larry Begley and Liam Donahue, strive to keep that philosophy.