How can women succeed in IT

Read my thoughts on how women can succeed in IT on the newly launched v3.co.uk here:

http://www.v3.co.uk/v3/analysis/2244634/q-maggie-berry-women-technology

New quotas in Egypt

First it was Norway that introduced a law saying that a minimum of 40% of a company’s non executive directors must be female. Now in a similar move, Egypt has announced that it will allocate 64 seats in the lower house of its parliament to women. In a country where most men do not trust women as decision makers, this has received mixed reactions, with some calling it ‘unconstitutional’. But this is exactly why it’s such a major step forward. Hopefully legislative changes will be the beginning of altering the traditional gender roles and stereotypes that still remain so prevalent.

The office playground

Remember those school bullies in the playground? Well, it seems that they’re not just confined to the school gates. They’re rife in the workplace too.

As reported in the Times the Andrea Adams Trust, a charity that fights against bullying at work, is receiving more phone calls for help with the issue. And not just a few more – the number is estimated to have doubled since the recession hit. The charity says that many of the callers don’t want to raise the issue at work as they’re scared that they could lose their job, which no-one wants to do given the current climate.

Although the majority of bullies are men, according to a recent article in the New York Times, female bullies target other women 70% of the time.

I can’t say that I am really surprised by this. The female race can be a bitchy one at times and instead of adopting some female solidarity, this is often directed at other women. And with the male dominated business culture, there are some women that adopt an aggressive manner to get to the top. But this brings up a different point, as highlighted by Sharon Mavin, associate dean at Newcastle Business School: “Is it bullying or is it just a woman not meeting another woman’s expectations? Women react to men bosses as bosses but react to women bosses as women.”

Our own research in conjunction with Microsoft brought up some interesting and polarised views from women in the IT sector:

  • “Assertiveness in a woman is too often regarded as hostility or aggression, so it is a fine line.”
  • “Maybe because my team manager is a woman, who has had children, she is sympathetic of the need to balance work with family.”
  • “The rest of the people on the staff have to put up with [mothers] being focused on children, not their work.”
  • “As an ambitious single woman in a technology company, I sometimes get frustrated by the extent to which some working mothers are carried by their peers”

With many women struggling with making it to the top, especially whilst juggling family commitments, it’s essential that women support each other in the workplace. Handling office politics and working in male teams can be challenging – these are just some of the issues we’re addressing at W-Tech next week.

Maternity fears

Maggie Berry talks about the impact that maternity leave can have on a fast paced technology career:

http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2244161/pace-causes-maternity-leave

Women of the board

The FT recently asked the question ‘are there board benefits to breaking male hegemony?’ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e829eb68-4a3d-11de-8e7e-00144feabdc0.html.  I read this piece with interest – and although the fact that all the views are from women may mean it’s slightly biased, some interesting points are raised.

The usual arguments for having more women on the boards are that they are less likely to take risks, that they have better people skills and that more female role models are needed for the younger generation. However an interesting point made in the FT article is “groupthink” – that if a board is made up of one demographic (i.e. white, middle aged men) they will all think the same and therefore lack effective decision making skills. As the female executives of Audur Capital put it: “If all board members have similar backgrounds and have been through similar socialisation, they are more likely than not to share views and presumptions and less likely to engage in vigorous discussion and to challenge management.”

Suggestions for solving this boardroom inequality include quotas and a commitment to diversity that incorporates not only gender but age, race and experience; however quotas remain quite controversial. What are your thoughts?

What holds women back?

What holds women back from top IT jobs? Maggie Berry discusses in this Computer Weekly article:

http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2009/05/29/236225/what-holds-women-back-from-top-jobs-in-it.htm

Career challenges?

Just a reminder that W-Tech will be held on 24th June at the IET in London by womenintechnology.co.uk and the BCS. It promises to be a very informative and enjoyable event, with a day full of career development workshops which will tackle a wide range of issues that women in IT face in their careers. These range from how to behave in an all male team to political savvy and there will be an opportunity to meet a selection of top IT employers. This will be followed by an evening networking session and a panel discussion of successful women in technology. And even better, it’s completely free to attend!

Whether you’re a graduate, IT professional, returner or an employer wishing to grab a last minute exhibiting spot, please visit www.wtech-event.co.uk for more information and to register. Hope to see you there!