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Computerworld posted a riveting look into why women leave technology careers. The main reason is not starting families, but getting fed up with being harassed or belittled at work. There are more reasons, too, some of which seem related.  Having worked in a tech-related industry, I would say that this looks accurate.

The mentoring idea is interesting, too. I have learned from both men and women on the job, but I am especially grateful to a senior woman who took the time to teach me little things I needed to know. I used to get annoyed at the "we must all band together" idea, but I did find that many of my biggest breaks came when I had someone going to bat for me, saying, "She can handle that." Often, it was another woman who was my champion. (And it seems I didn't disappoint anybody, since those projects often grew in scope or became regular assignments.) It's sad to me that a company should need a little subculture to help valuable workers survive, but  if the culture isn't very inclusive to start with, then it becomes a good idea. I think what Cisco's doing is smart.

I'm not trying to create a man-bashing situation here. Maleness is not a bad thing. What I find interesting here isn't that tech environments are man-filled or manly, but that they're macho. That speaks to me of young hires and of a failure to create a truly professional work environment. It gets me thinking, what are companies doing wrong? Are they so anxious to get the talent that they're letting too many people behave like spoiled rock stars? And when women come up with their own networks in a male-dominated department, do we end up with more problems based on that division?

Date: 2008-06-17 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cynodd.livejournal.com
I've been thinking about this since reading it yesterday. First, I wonder what, in the majority, these women are going into after leaving tech and science. And did they find it to be better? I wonder if things are actually worse than in any other male-dominated field, and if they left to go to another one, to stay home, or to go into a female-dominated profession.

I'm wondering if it's not really a factor of the type of men in these professions, but rather that they continue to be dominated by one gender, and any field that is has the same problems. They factors of needing to take more risks and work longer hours may not be the same in every profession, but to be top-notch in any you've got to do the 70-hour weeks, I think. And in any, men are more rewarded or less punished for that risk-taking behavior, I think.

In ministry, there's a lot of stories about the macho attitudes that the first women ministers in our denomination encountered. But now we're more than 50% women, so the scales have tipped. That has its downside, too. There's a sense that the influx of women into the profession has de-professionalized it. That is, since women's work is given less respect, and now this is more women's work, it's given less respect. We didn't gain the respect by going into the profession, we brought the profession down to women's level.

I've seen that in my own church, and in ways having to do with, of course, salary. I honestly think they would be embarrassed to pay a man with a family what they pay me. And I think that a man wouldn't do it. So here we are--win-win!

Date: 2008-06-17 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
You raise several good questions. The worst environment I ever worked in was a small sales office. I don't think the problem was that the owners were men or that the staff was basically two men plus me. I think it was that as business owners, they thought they could have the work environment they enjoyed: a locker room. Ribald, misogynistic jokes were part of the territory --and I heard one of them telling these jokes to repeat customers, so maybe it didn't occur to them them that what they thought was bonding with a male customer was rather rude to the woman at the next desk.

And at that same job, there was a female-dominated business (transcriptionists, I think) next door. The giggles and shrieks we heard through the walls didn't sound all that professional, either. So that seems to illustrate your point.

What a sad thing for your profession. One question, though: How do you know that it's become less respected because women are in it? Could there be other factors at work? Maybe that it's easy to get at least a college education, so there's less respect for the schoolin', and that people less religious than, say, a hundred years ago (at least, that's what I assume).

It's not possible to keep every workplace and department 50-50, but I do wonder what could be done to establish camaraderie without excluding part of the staff.
Edited Date: 2008-06-17 08:24 pm (UTC)

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