Abstract Sequential Stephanie Hobson's abstract thoughts in the sequence she has them.

Women in IT, a response and an observation

A few weeks months ago Jeffrey Zeldman posted a summary of the results of an An Event Apart fact finding mission on women in IT (web design was deemed too liquid a field to study). Jeffrey’s blog post sure sparked a discussion and a few basic ideas came up:

  • is there is something about IT that doesn’t attract women?
  • do men and women contribute different things?
  • do women self promote? do men do it more? how is it perceived?
  • how much of the above is cultural or learned behaviour?

In response to all of that I can say: I think men and women are fundamentally the same and any differences in our behaviour is cultural or taught. This is based on any number of my own personal observations the most relevant of which are: no matter what the stereotype, there is always an exception to what is considered typical or biological behaviour and that around the world the typical traits of each gender are different things in different cultures.

If there is a difference in the number of women doing something (a career in this case), it follows that there is some learned behaviour responsible for that disparity.

I’ve been talking these ideas over with my friends and I think the most interesting new piece of information to come out of this discussion, for me anyway, is the idea that men and women communicate in different ways and communicate with each other in different ways. So while a man might demand a raise and be respected a woman might not even phrase a request for a raise as a demand. The idea that the lingering pay disparity might be because women just haven’t asked for a raise is kind of a new thought for me.

I spent a few weeks thinking women needed to learn to be more aggressive and then at one of the panels at the CADE-AMTEC conference on gender in online discussion one of the other audience members (the only male in the room) suggested that maybe men needed be socialized to be less aggressive. The idea that maybe women have it right was a new idea for me too. I suspect the ideal path lies some where in the middle and is, at any rate, not the decision for one person to make anyway since a society changes only when the majority of the people who comprise it change.

I wrote most of this within two weeks of Jeffrey’s blog post and I was going to delete it rather than posting it but, well, some new information came up so I thought I’d post the two together.

Also mentioned in the discussion in response to the blog post was the idea that many of the women doing web design don’t think of themselves as web designers and aren’t in IT, they’re women in pink collar jobs who are doing design as part of a slew of other duties they have.

Last week we had a meeting with the leaders of our distributed web publishing community. These are the people who are in charge of ensuring their entire department or school is following our guidelines before a change goes public. They evaluate pages for good IA, UX, adherence to coding standards and writing style guidelines, and nitpicky details too. It was a room full of very talented women, all women, who contribute to the web site as a small part of their other job duties.

This whole gender thing really makes me think.