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women in it

Friday fun for the IT crowd: Can IT fix its gender problems?

October 10, 2014
By Lisa Dare

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing—the world’s biggest gathering of women in IT—saw a huge spike in attendance this year. Why is that?

Two forces are probably at play. First, sparked partly by Google’s release of its workforce diversity numbers, a national conversation about hiring more women into tech/IT jobs commenced. And the conversation has shown staying power, indicating a depth of interest in the topic.

Second, many women find the IT department or tech firms a lonely place to work, especially as women-held computing jobs have been on the decline since the 1990s. The lopsided environment has fed this problem: Even the women who brave mostly male computer science programs to earn job in IT often leave after only 10 or 15 years, fueled in large part by an often sexist culture that manifests in a variety of ways, from degrading remarks to using different standards to describe females in performance reviews. Building communities of women in shared situations can help alleviate that loneliness and frustration, and professional networks are also important resources for women to advance their careers.

Tech companies know they have a problem with ethnic and gender diversity, but they don’t know what to do about it. (If fact, several showed just how clueless tech can be about women’s issues in a widely mocked Male Allies panel at the Grace Hopper conference). Companies looking to improve their gender diversity numbers turned out in force to recruit from the conference attendees, but that won’t solve the longer-term problems. After all, the women at Grace Hooper are already working or studying computer-related fields. Recruiting them doesn’t add to the pool of available candidates, and it does nothing to stop women from leaving IT down the line.

But the real reason for the Grace Hopper conference isn’t recruiting—it’s celebrating women in technology and helping them build networks. When tech can be a lonely place, having a community that shares the same issues can be immensely empowering. The women also form networking bonds that will likely help their professional IT careers.

Looking to find a network or help shape women’s contributions to computing? Explore these resources.

Women in Technology International: This global network is dedicated to helping women advance in technology careers. Their regional networks can help you connect with local women in tech.

National Center for Women in IT: NCWIT has terrific resources for learning about subtle ways computing’s gender imbalance harms women and businesses. You can join one of their Alliance groups to network, volunteer and help other women.

GirlDevelopIt: This organization has local chapters to support women in learning developing skills.

CODE2040: CODE2014 is a nonprofit that seeks to help black and Latino men and women succeed in technology.

Also, for the business case for why gender diversity matters in tech—and what businesses can do about the imbalance—check out our infographic on IT’s gender diversity problem. And don’t forget to follow our Women in IT Pinterest board

Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech (seriously, these folks are scary-smart). Lisa frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of tech.

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