1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

    Why do women pick IT as a career ?

    There's lots of waffle about why there are so few women in IT, but would like to look at it objectively in a forthcoming article...


    I observe that IT pays better than most jobs and that there are a good number of vacancies.

    IT rarely requires physical strength and in fact most IT work does not even require you to be able bodied.

    The % of women that leave IT completely in any given year is far higher than can be explained by having children or retirement.

    So which of the following factors apply and in what proportion ?

    Women for some reason just don't like computers

    The subset of women who chose IT careers doesn't intersect the set of women who would enjoy it all that much.

    There exists some pool of good jobs that women discover after starting work that attract them away.

    And of course sexism

    I have to say up front that I don't buy sexism at all even slightly. Having worked in manufacturing, retail and the media, I have to say that IT departments seem far less sexist. Though I accept the possibility that women leave IT because of sexism and then take careers in healthcare or retail which are massively worse, but can't go back. But I don't care about them, I would like to know why so many women leave IT.

    1. ggicollegepunjab

      Re: Why do women pick IT as a career ?

      Because There are so many Fields in IT Sector which provides a Good Job that one can do while siting at home specially Good for women..Mostly women want this type of job so they go for IT....



      1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: Why do women pick IT as a career ?

        We'll let you link this time. But don't go spammy on us, OK?

        1. Anonymous C0ward

          Re: Why do women pick IT as a career ?

          Egg, sausage and bacon. But baked beans are off.

    2. H0tbutteredt0astandcoffee

      Re: Why do women pick IT as a career ?

      I worked in IT for a long time and now I don't. Women in IT often get rolled out as demonstrations of how 'progressive' the department is. I was asked to speak at conferences a lot because I was the acceptable face of technology (no I'm not kidding). Which is depressing. Love me for my ability to solve problems not the fact I look good in a frock.

      However I'm coming back into the industry, will report back whether you are all still mostly nuts. ; )

    3. MrDamage

      Women for some reason just don't like computers

      Its because they are too similar to computers. Lets look at some facts.

      No-one but their creator understands their internal logic.

      "Bad command or file name" makes as much sense as "If you don't know why I'm angry at you, I'm certainly not going to tell you!"

      All of your mistakes are immediately noted down for future reference.

      They don't respond well if you accidentally spill a beer over them.

      I'll get my coat...

  2. Peter2 Silver badge

    I would go with the same reason why the prevalence of High Functioning Autism is so high in IT compared to other professions.

    It's simply easier to deal with computers if you think logically to start with. If "Men are from Mars, Woman are from Venus" is to be believed then the average woman's cognitive thinking style does not fit well in IT, in the same way that most men would be at a comparative disadvantage in nursing or areas where you need a lot of empathy.

    1. Overflowing Stack

      I think this is probably the main reason. Most mathematical people seem to be on the spectrum and as a child were probably on their ZX Spectrum.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do women pick careers in IT?

    AFAIK they largely don't.

    As for sexist, well, if it seems to be less then it might in fact be more insidious. Of the "smart guys who genuinely believe themselves to be emancipated, but are actually more chauvinist than they think they are" kind. Pictures of nekkid women in lockers are quite the different issue from getting subtly shut out while everyone acts on their best behaviour.

    You'd probably need a few anthropologists to get a real feeling for the subject, though. This is not something you can divine asking a largely male-with-IT-background reader population. The least you can do is find a bunch of still-in-IT and having-left-IT-already women both, and ask them, not necessarily in that order.

  4. Drewc Gold badge

    One theory, fairly implausible ...

    Comic book-style.

  5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Put me down as a chauvinist

    Did you hear Jocelyn Bell Burnell on the Today programme this week? She said that her astronomy lectures are mainly attended by men. But when she gives a lecture on Astronomy and Poetry, more women attend.

    And yet women seem to be the main consumers of crossword magazines. And every woman's magazine has a puzzle section. So I don't believe women are at an intellectual disadvantage (e.g. less autistic).

    But maybe its because men are more arrogant and less conscientious. For example, I'm currently teaching a mixed group to sing. And the boys and men are all unfazed by their mistakes; they carry on regardless. But every time a woman makes a mistake, it's "Oooh, I can't do this. I'm no good." And computers require you to mistake after mistake after mistake.

    The long hours culture is probably a factor, too. I wouldn't be working for myself if I could find a programming job that's three days a week. (And the IT tech at the school where my sister teaches is a woman - I don't know if that's generally true.)

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Put me down as a chauvinist

      "....women seem to be the main consumers of crossword magazines....."

      You may be reading too much into that. My wife's quite fond of the "trash mags" full of prize puzzles. The most complex crosswords in those make the Daily Mail's quick crossword look like The Times' cryptic offering for complexity.

  6. Christine Hedley

    As a random observation, the ratio of men and women in IT seemed far more even back when I started out in the late '80s, but the profession has seen a gradually decreasing number of women entering the field since that time. I suspect two factors at work: one is that a lot of companies seem to fast-track women into management which either succeeds or puts us off, but it's a policy that removes women from the pool of staff either way; the other is the way it's taught in schools: back in the 1980s, computer science gave a reasonable idea of what it was about and would get the attention of people who might gravitate towards the subject, whereas its replacement of ICT (in other words teaching people how to use Office) is entirely tedious and uninspiring, so perhaps it's only those who are really determined to have a career in computing who go ahead anyway. The only problem with my theory is that there's not an obvious male/female divide in either case, but where one exists, they may be enough to tip the balance.

  7. Sandra Greer

    Still in IT

    When I started in IT, back in the mainframe days, it was pretty hard to get a job in IT at all, and there was lots of discrimination against women in all jobs (as well as against blacks, gays, and anyone who looked different). I was soon recruited by a consulting firm, whose owner realised that women were a great overlooked resource, so we actively recruited them. I have a feeling we were also paid less than the men, but it would be hard to prove. It's just the way it was in those days.

    Women stayed, and got promotions. At some point male sales reps went out of fashion, so they were almost all replaced with what I called sales clones, attractive and bright young women.

    Computer science meanwhile was starting to be important, and was somewhat less attractive to women than to men. Previously, programmers learned on the job, mostly. The women were frequently mathematicians, while the men were frequently recruited from accounting and the mail room, where the early tab equipment lived. I went back to school at one point, first in computer science, then transferring after a year to the MBA program, where I learned things I had never encountered in college. I had found the computer science curriculum overly academic and boring; my MBA was in Operations Research, which is applied mathematics.

    I'll be retiring next year at age 71. IT has been good to me, but I don't recommend it now, as the opportunities seem to have shrunk over the years. Possibly today's women have realised that, and are fleeing to areas where they can find growth.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Still in IT

      Not sure how I missed this post last week ... but I totally agree on the MBA on top of an IT degree (or three). Opens doors that are otherwise hermetically sealed, regardless of gender.

      I'm only 20 years behind you, but I have a clue what went on during those two decades, thanks to my Father bringing his work home with him (literally ... I learned about and, nand, xor & etc gates playing with wire-wrapped relays when I was pre-teen). Your generation were real trailblazers. Kids these days just don't get it.

      Thank you. Enjoy your retirement, Lady. You've earned it :-)

      ::raises glass in appreciation::

  8. Anonymous Coward

    To meet hot men?

    That title was a joke of course, there's very few hot men in IT - they are all in marketing - rofl.

    I've often wondered this myself.

    I'm currently employed at a large corporate, part of which does marketing, design and digital.

    What's interesting, is on the digital account management side, there's more women.

    In the dev team, there's one woman.

    I'm moving to a new, smaller company soon. All the devs are blokes.

    Thing is, all the developers I've met are not in the slightest way bigoted toward women, on the contrary, the belief is women are completely our equal - but where the hell are they?

    It would make developer a whole lot better, more mature and just more fun if more women were involved in the process.

    Perhaps the stereotype image of the IT nerd chases women away from the field - socially inept, physically unattractive without girlfriends.

    This certainly is a cliched stereotype - blokes in IT now are suave, sophisticated, hunky and charming - honest, they are!

    Come on women, join IT, you'll soon see what a lovely bunch of blokes we are!

  9. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

    Getting sysadmins to wear skirts improves server reliability.

    ...opps no it doesn't.

    I have never seen any evidence, even anecdotal that women make a team better or worse and having been a developer for most of the last 25 years in many types of envrinoment I've seen very little to commend the idea or disprove it.

    That's because computers aren't sexist.

    A man will get *exactly* the same error message as a woman if he types crap into the compiler.

    Also, any given type of job is best done by certain "types" of people, part of which is personality, also it attracts "types" of people, sadly these two types do not intersect perfectly.

    Programming is you vs the machine, some women like that many do not, indeed a majority of people in general don't like it, so can't be good programmers. That's no tragedy. I would make a terrible dentist or farmer, so I do netiher, I don't feel deprived or ashamed. Those are both "male dominated" careers yet we don't see the same bullshit that we "need" more women.

    So when people emit artsgrad bullshit that women are better in teams they are (at best) talking about the general population of women, but in IT we are looking at a very skewed population, just like dentists, so the women might be far better or worse at IT than the average, we just don't know.

    ...except we do know and have clear objective data.

    The rate at which women leave IT is vastly higher than can be explained by having kids and certainly not by retirement and is much much higher than men. It seems they don't like working in IT..

    That goes to my earlier point about the right "type" of people. I have no clear view on whether the general population of women has more talent for IT than men, but it is clear to me that the subset of women who enter IT are the wrong ones. That's not "wrong" in my view but in theirs, they invest serious amounts of time and money to get qualified for IT jobs, then give them up. That's a major hole in your life and those who con women into taking jobs they do not enjoy or succeed at are doing it to look good to their other right-on friends, not in the interests of women.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Getting sysadmins to wear skirts improves server reliability.

      "A man will get *exactly* the same error message as a woman if he types crap into the compiler."

      Fact. But then you go on to type

      "Programming is you vs the machine"

      No. The machine has no clue. It's you against yourself. Are you trying to insinuate that there are more guys in IT than gals because IT's a fight, and fighting is a "Man's Job"? If so, I hope Admiral Grace will haunt your dreams until you print out an ASCII art Snoopy on an acoustic-coupled fan-fold paper terminal connected to a mainframe in penance.

      As a side note, a very good friend of mine is a Veterinarian. She's a woman. I nearly married her thirty years ago ... Once in a while, I attend the big yearly Vet conference in Los Vegas (Western Vet Conference) with her, because she trusts my knowledge of hardware & software. Three years ago, as we were walking through the "small package" Ultrasound isle, we heard an old-fart comment "The entire Vet industry has gone to hell because there are more women than men entering the field" ... I put a hand on her shoulder, and we didn't get arrested ...

      That kind of thinking needs to go away. Now. IMO, woman are fully capable of doing anything us guys do. And they are probably better at it, because they can do it backwards, in heels, thanks to centuries of sexism ...

      My wife (a horse trainer), reading over my shoulder, agrees with this post.

      1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

        Re: Getting sysadmins to wear skirts improves server reliability.

        Yes, I am prepared to believe that programming is a form of fighting, though I take on board that it is a fight that you have with yourself. This of course begs the question of whether it *should* be like that.

        Grace Hopper is one data point and as you say she was a US naval officer an institution that has never been at ease with people who sleep with men. She was also a loong time ago, so I'm not sure what we can learn from her life given that few people see seriously sexist, homophobic, racist and religiously bigoted outfits as ideal places for women to grow their careers.

        Also Admiral Hopper was never "encouraged" to do IT, she saw it and elbowed her way in because she saw it as promising for her career and interesting. So in that way she's a little like me.

        I suspect strongly that the "encouraging" is doing more harm than good ,since it attracts the wrong sort of women, those who fall for state sponsored career encouragement which to me doesn't seem a promising personal characteristic for anyone in any career except maybe the clergy.

        Girls know there are computers, they know people get paid to do things to them, so why dont the smart ones choose to do so.

        As it happens I married a very smart woman, defined as scoring a gig at IBM's labs at 18 and then being offered her choice of pretty much any subject to study at Oxford, so I asked her.

        Being smart even before she entered the job market she was suspicious of anything that was being sold to her so hard. We both sort of believe in the efficient market hypothesis (google on that) and sceptical when the IT industry and government say "there aren't enough programmers" which a rational person, regardless of what level they've studied economics will interpret as "we want the supply to go up so the price will go down".

        Also of all the shitties jobs in the UK with the worst career progression for women, the majority are those with some part of the UK government. Do you see female senior civil servants ? lots of nurses are female, very few of their managers, female teachers earn on average rather less than male ones a pattern so strong that I know of no subset of government jobs where the wage disparity is not worse than the average in the private sector.

        Would a smart girl really take advice from these people ?

        Would you choose to employ someone who did ?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Getting sysadmins to wear skirts improves server reliability.

          "Yes, I am prepared to believe that programming is a form of fighting, though I take on board that it is a fight that you have with yourself. This of course begs the question of whether it *should* be like that."

          It just is. And will be, until computers are sentient. Which I, for one, hope will never happen. Us humans put ones & zeros in the proper order, hit the "go" button, and the machine spits out the result, possibly after reading input from various analog-to-digital converters.

          Admiral Hopper's life wasn't all that long ago ... my last email from Grace was a birthday greeting in July of 1991 ... and I will always cherish my nanosecond. Yes, she bulldozed her way into the mostly male dominated pantheon of computer legends ... but we all still use COBOL. One data point? Of course. But IMO a pretty important one.

          State sponsored "career encouragement" is evil, IMO. Allow kids to excel at what they are good at, not what the state thinks they need to be good at. Here in California, Wood Shop, Metal Shop & Auto Shop aren't even an option in most highschool curriculums anymore ... Who is going to fix my car in forty years, when I'm too old to pull and replace the plugs & crawl under it to change the oil?

          "Girls know there are computers, they know people get paid to do things to them, so why dont the smart ones choose to do so."

          Some smart ones do ... and make a pretty penny, I might add. I kinda suspect that (as a percentage), females make a LOT more money in IT than men. Most are con-artists, though ... just like the men who draw giant salaries.

          I can't speak of wage disparity in UK .gov jobs ... I'm a Yank :-)

          Answers to your final two questions ... No, and No. I don't think there are any definitive answers to this particular conversation ... but I do think that that all genders are perfectly capable of doing the IT thing. My daughter is a programmer and senior member of the technical staff for a Fortune 150 ... She's also a potential member of the USA's equestrian team in the next Olympics. Stifling kids is contra indicative, IMO ... If they are good at something(s), encourage it.

          As a sidenote, do yourself a favo(u)r ... Tell your wife she's beautiful on a fairly irregular but consistent basis. She sounds like a keeper.

  10. sisk

    Well, there's no shortage of women in our IT department. In this office (the main IT office) there are three men and 8 women. The rest of the IT (spread throughout the rest of the buildings for quick access when staff need help) is similarly heavily female, with a total of 11 woman and 8 men in IT outside of the main IT office.

    Personally I don't think sexism has anything to do with it. In my experience most women simply aren't interested in computers (obviously I work with a lot of exceptions). You see the same thing in gaming. While there are a lot of gamer girls, you're far more likely to encounter a man in a games shop than a woman (I am, of course, excluding people who are there to get stuff for their kids).

  11. dogged

    Unpopular theory

    Note - I don't necessarily believe this, I'm just throwing it out there because it could fit Dominic's observation.

    Women leave IT in droves because it is a binary pass/fail proposition. Either you succedd and your code works or you fail and it doesn't. No amount of interpersonal skills and/or nice legs are going to change that.

    Therefore, perhaps there is some impetus to seek a career in a field where interpersonal skills and/or nice legs do make a difference instead.

    (Kat, if you're reading, I swear to Kibo I'm just trying to find a hypothesis that fits the observed facts....)

  12. Thomas 4
    IT Angle

    I don't get the question

    Why does it even matter if women are recruited into IT or not? You don't see women commenting about the lack of male midwives out there. A programmer is just a programmer and unless you're planning on typing with your 11th finger, genetalia doesn't really affect your ability to do the job.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I don't get the question

      Thomas, good response, which circles the base issue as discussed by others. Nearly typed skirts, but that would derail the argument. :-) IMHO, Simple answer is, it makes no difference to work done. Observation; having worked in teams in and out of IT, women of various ages have commented to me that they like men around as it makes the female interaction less "bitchy". Their term, not mine. I have noted that mixed gender IT teams tend to be more relaxed. Maybe thats cultural and not applicable in more backward parts of the world, like USA and UK.

      Philosophical response: It matters only to busybodies who are driven by belief that equality means sameness. To measure equality one counts numbers. Same numbers means equality. Why would any thinking person behave this way ? Because they are not observing persons and are driven by a reductionist ideology that treats all people as units. It cant conceive of free choice and preference because of its materialist assumptions. Hence your pestiferous HR droid will behave like the average CEO in their treatment of people. Both produce verbal noise, process and rules, not choices. Unfortunately, some busybodies get elected or worse, appointed to implement the consequences of this reductionist fallacy.

  13. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

    Why IT

    Back in 1986 I couldn't find anyone hiring recently graduated physicists anywhere near where I wanted to live but someone did want mainframe programmers so hey ho, let's go programming. It's been a good thing by and large, with a greater emphasis on what I can deliver as an individual compared to other technical and engineering industries. I compare my experience with that of an acquaintance who works as an engineer for a railway rolling stock manufacturer. While the overall gender balance is similar, the role specialisation by gender and resistance to women moving forward in technical roles seems much greater than my experience in IT.

  14. Trung

    Information technology industry needs to think mathematically relatively good, so male or female does not matter. Currently the number of female students participated in this study accounted for a high percentage. The demand for labor in the field of information technology in the future is great, as it relates to all engineering disciplines, economic, cultural and social software .... So the job opportunities are not difficult but you must strive to better learning outcomes. For the IT industry, in addition to the basic knowledge, students are learning about computer architecture, operating systems, databases, programming techniques, computer networking, information system design, the software engineering, network security. At SEO500k there are many IT staff are women.

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