What Can We Do to Promote Women’s Achievement in Information Technology?

Information technology is still a predominantly male field, and that does not look like it will be changing in the near future, because the talent pool at the lower levels of the field is not there – as long as women believe that the field is not one for them, they will not pursue qualifications in software or hardware related fields.

Barriers to Achievement

The truth is that women in information technology can be high achievers; from the iconic pioneer Grace Hopper to the Ubuntu project’s Amber Graner, there are many women who have done incredibly well in the IT field.

Sadly, a lot of them suffer from what is known as ‘imposter syndrome’. In spite of achieving great things, they always feel like they do not belong, and that they are just one bad day away from being found out as a fake or a fraud. What can you do about this? Well, if you work in IT you can help to support and encourage the women around you, and understand that the way women, in general, are taught to think and speak differs from the way that men do.

Downplaying Achievements

One thing that IT recruiters have noticed is that men will tend to apply for jobs even if they may not be qualified for them, while women will apply only if they tick every box on the wishlist form.

Men are more willing to claim they know something, then swot up on it in the run-up to the interview, women will say that they don’t know things, even if they have a passing familiarity with them.

The achievements of women tend to be downplayed by everyone involved. If there were multiple people on a team, the others would get a large portion of the credit, even if they were not the people who did the bulk of the work.

So What is The Answer?

Figuring out how to end this inequality is not going to be easy. The answer could be to push for a better working environment, to use equity to improve diversity, or to start targeting school-aged females, to improve the talent pool from a young age.

Getting people to rethink the ‘crunch time’ side of IT culture would also help – otherwise we will end up in a situation where even the women who are interested in working in IT, and some of the highest achievers – leave. Carly Fiorina, formerly of HP has proven that it is possible for women to lead the world’s biggest tech companies – and yet the FTSE 100 – a blue-chip index of companies, has barely passed 25% female representation. Who wants to work long hours in a stressful environment because projects are poorly managed?

Improving the working environment for everyone will make a big difference to staff retention, and encourage more talented people to explore computer sciences as a career option, instead of leaning towards the humanities or academia.