The Java Source

Too Few Women in IT!

November 27, 2011 By: Yolande Poirier

Last year, only 1% of attendees at Devoxx were women . This year, Devoxx addressed the issue in a panel entitled "Why We Should Target Women." On the panel were Kim Ross, Régina ten Bruggencate, Trisha Gee, Antonio Goncalves and Claude Falguiére. The moderator was Martijn Verburg.

The discussion focused on how to attract women to programming and how to get current women programmers to be more active in the community. The panelists agreed that the IT field should not just attract more women but also men of different ethnic backgrounds. The lack of women in programming is in part a cultural issue that differs from region to region. In developed countries, very few women work as programmers whereas in Brazil and India a lot of women pursue careers in IT. Women in developed countries perceive the field as isolating and very few young women graduate in computer science. This perception of isolation was based in reality decades ago, but that is no longer the case today.

Main ideas discussed by the panel:

  • Parents should encourage their daughters to play with Lego and learn programming.
  • More organizations should target girls in high schools and young women in university to expose them to programming. The JDuchess organization is planning on being more involved with young girl events and mentoring.
  • Women tend to be more self-critical about their skills and are intimidated by high skill requirements in job advertisements.
  • Companies should change job advertisements to get more women to interviews.
  • Panelists don't recommend affirmative action because women feel favored and lose credibility. They want to be judged for their skills.
  • Panelists recommend acting the same way when dealing with either female or male co-workers and managers.
  • Women need mentors (men or women) to learn to become speakers at conferences and to promote themselves better.
  • Men should be sensitive to the fact that women are alone at work to respond to men teasing. The balance of power at work is different from a social setting.
  • Men also experience discrimination on the job. It is more difficult for men to take time off when their children are sick, for example.
  • Equal valuing of parental obligations could result in equal pay for women.
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