Does IT Favor Men?
Those surveyed believe women in technology have fewer opportunities than men.
Most men and women technologists feel working conditions for female IT professionals have either stayed the same or improved in the last two years. Nearly 30 percent believe compensation, benefits and management promotions are better today for women compared with men.
However, a disturbing 61 percent of respondents say women have fewer career advancement opportunities.
That's the primary finding from a survey of 2,067 tech professionals ranging from computer operators to CIOs. The Techies.com survey was completed in May and drew a surprising 64 percent female response. (A typical Techies.com survey-response base mirrors the U.S. technical population, in which men outnumber women four to one.) The unusually high sample might indicate that female technologists feel strongly that there are painful gender issues rampant in the IT arena.
About 70 percent of techies say promotion of women to management roles is the same or better than two years ago, yet a whopping 76 percent agree men are still more likely to be mentored into management positions.
"I can attest to the fact that in technology women are generally not given the same opportunities," says a female project manager from the South. "This has gotten worse over the past year. Most of the hiring managers in technology are male and feel that men can handle a predominantly male team better than a woman can."
Just 36 percent of survey respondents say their current or previous company employed at least a "fair number" of female senior managers; 53 percent report "very few" or none. The percentages do not differ significantly by region.
Women managers seem more common at corporations of 1,000-plus people: The larger the company, the higher the percentage of female managers, according to the survey.
Gender-bias and assumed family roles lead respondents' reasons for low numbers of women in management positions. There were 52 percent that agreed or "completely agreed" that IT executives don't like to place women in higher-paid positions because they're concerned they'll leave for child-related reasons; 54 percent think male managers are uncomfortable around women and tend to keep them in lower-paying jobs.
"I think there are still managers out there that don't appreciate that women are just as skilled or more than qualified," says a female help desk analyst from the Midwest. "It truly depends on management and company reputation."
The performance of male vs. female technologists was rated the same in the survey in almost all managerial qualities—such as loyalty, reliability and skills. But 68 percent of respondents say women techies are more organized; 47 percent say women managers are better at mentoring subordinates; and 49 percent say women have better team-building skills.
Still, the 2,005 written comments submitted as part of the survey generally called for greater female opportunities.
"I think a lot of guys would very much like to see more women in the IT industry," says a male software engineer from the West. "At my last job, managers were actively trying to recruit more women into the office, but were unable to find qualified candidates. This didn't really surprise me, since in college most [computer science] classes had something like 90 percent men."
Nick Doty is editorial director of Techies.com, an online career and training center for technology professionals based in Minneapolis.