As a social person, I often get asked, “What do you do for a living?” I tell them that I work in IT, and I usually get a look of surprise. I often say, “I’m not your typical IT guy.” Most people have a preconceived notion that an IT guy is a nerdy guy who stutters around women and hides behind his computer. In comparison, I’ve found most of my peers to be outgoing and welcoming even when they were a bit introverted. I started my technology career later in life. I decided I wanted to go back to school and learn something I knew would be challenging and exciting. I wanted to be a good provider for my daughter, so I chose cybersecurity and forensics. And, I fell in love with it.
I was stunned at the lack of women attending the computer programs when I first started my classes. But, I didn’t mind working with all men. While it is true that working in a male-dominated field has its challenges, I’ve found my male colleagues to be supportive and encouraging. Our company urges open sharing and collaboration. I love my job and being the minority has never made much difference. I am a firm believer that anyone with the love of troubleshooting and taking on a technological challenge can be successful with the support from the right company.
Believe or not, the technology field wasn’t always mostly men. Yet these days, there are so few women in technology. Why is this? Is it a lack of interest? Are the opportunities for women in technology discussed in schools? According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2014, only 26% of the computing workforce was made up of women. That number was 36% in 1991. In addition, successful tech startups have twice as many women in senior positions as unsuccessful companies. Stanford University confirms, “Gender diversity in the high-tech workforce fuels problem solving and innovation — the driving force of technology” (Simard et al., n.d.).
Women are great communicators and collaborators. They tend to build deep networks with peers and customers. Yet there is a large percentage of women reporting dissatisfaction with their careers. According to National Center for Women & Information Technology, the reasons include unsupportive work environments, having to sacrifice personal and family time to keep in good career standing, and lack of role models. Technical women are quitting their jobs when they are at the middle-level positions, which is costly for businesses counting on their skills. The same source confirms that more enthusiastic support from the top leaders and improving managerial relationships could have a positive impact on retention. In addition, Stanford University reports that positive work culture, fair compensation, professional development opportunities and opportunities to advance in career track are very important retention strategies for the women in the tech-force (Simard et al., n.d.).
Numerous support groups pioneer for women who work or have an interest in anything that has to do with technology. “Women Who Tech” holds summits and helps sponsor women-led startup companies. The group is formed by many talented women including Sandra Lerner, who co-founded the well-known networking equipment company Cisco, and Diane Greene, who founded VMWare, a successful cloud and virtualization corporation. The last five summits held reached over 4,000 women in tech and entrepreneurs all around the United States.
Another adoptive support group for women is “She Geeks Out!” The group provides networking events for a wide variety of diverse women. The group goal is to use their passion for technology to encourage and mentor one another. This women’s only circle has well-known sponsors such as Twitter, Spotify, Google, FitBit, and HubSpot. The events are often sold out and include an entertaining night of eating and networking.
Working in a profession that is experiencing continuous change and growth is exciting. I never stop learning. My years as a creative graphic designer have taught me to be a resourceful troubleshooter with computerized devices and programs. The best part of my day is interacting with people from different walks of life. I focus on making their lives a bit easier and less stressful through teaching, troubleshooting and fixing. Whether it’s a program that needs to be repaired, a networking issue, or a necessary reboot, I get a deep satisfaction that comes with being “the IT guy."
IT Consultant | AfidenceIT
Women in IT: The Facts Infographic [2015 Update]. (2015). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from https://www.ncwit.org/resources/women-it-facts-infographic-2015-update
Simard, C., Henderson, A. D., Glimartin, S., Schiebinger, L., & Whitney, T. (n.d.). Climbing the Technical Ladder: Obstacles and Solutions for Mid-Level Women in Technology. Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research Stanford University. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://gender.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Climbing_the_Technical_Ladder.pdf