women “clueless”

Sometimes I see some really interesting research in the press. But other times I just see something that’s a little harder to believe, which is interesting for all the wrong reasons! One of those is a press release entitled “women ‘clueless about technology’” which was brought to my attention today – a PR stunt to cause controversy and grab attention if ever I’d seen one!
Apparently 55% think women are clueless when it comes to technology – but that means that around half don’t! The survey also says that the majority of people would ask a man for technical advice. Is this really a big surprise? The whole reason womenintechnology exists is because there is a distinct lack of women in technical roles and we’re trying to improve this – it’s no big revelation that there are far more men in the industry.
A spokesperson from the company who carried out the survey – TechGuys (again – surprise) – was quoted as saying “We are an equal opportunities employer, and always on the lookout for female TechGuys as we know that some of our customers may feel more comfortable letting a woman into their home, but it’s rare that we ever receive an application from a woman.” As a woman in the technology field, I know how challenging it can be for women to work in very male dominated environments. So why would a female technology professional apply to an organisation whose name suggests females aren’t really welcome?
They say that all publicity is good publicity but I’m not so sure, as this survey plus the company’s name is not doing much for their reputation as an equal opportunities employer. It’s surveys like this that are hindering women being seen as serious technology professionals. Shall we invite them and their survey respondents to our next event? We may just change their minds!


The intelligence war – twitter vs facebook

Is Twitter bad for your intelligence? It could be if psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway is to be believed. She claims that working memory, which involves remembering and using information, is more important to success than IQ and things like Twitter could actually be damaging to it because of its ‘instant’ nature. She said, ”On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct. You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.” Facebook on the other hand is believed to be beneficial to working memory, like sudoku and brain training, as it’s more of a dialogue and involves building connections.

However, don’t stop tweeting just yet. The Times isn’t convinced and reports that during the press conference in which she announced this news, Dr Alloway admitted when questioned that this theory is at the moment just that, a hypothesis that she hasn’t started researching yet. Times blogger Mark Henderson says “Most people I know who use Twitter see it as an interactive tool for conversing with wide groups, and for drawing like-minded people’s attention to information that might interest them. It’s interactive, full of links, and information-rich. It’s a misconception that the 140-character limit makes depth impossible. In fact, to me, Twitter seems to build social networks just as effectively as Facebook.”

What do you think? I tend to agree that Twitter is very interactive although I can see that in some cases how it could be seen to have a negative effect on working memory. Either way, I won’t stop tweeting just yet – but will maybe keep on doing sudoku too just in case!

Scottish WIT seminar

Although womenintechnology aims to help the cause of women in IT all across the UK (and the world, given time!) most of our events are based in London – so it’s great to see that Scotland is joining in on the debate too. Dundee University is hosting a seminar to discuss the issues that effect women in the science and engineering sectors, from work / life balance to the glass ceiling.

Organised by the University and gender group FAST-DOT Project, the seminar “Women in Science and Engineering: Inspiring Perspectives from Academia and Industry” features leading females from these industries and the academic world. They will share experiences and discuss what can be done to encourage more women into the fields and help them progress their careers in these areas.

According to STV, Dr. Maria Cataluna, one of the event organisers, said: “This will be an informal event where the audience will have the opportunity to engage and ask questions to our guest speakers, who are truly inspirational scientists and engineers. We will discuss issues that ultimately affect everyone, and so we hope that male engineers and scientists will also participate in the meeting – particularly those that are interested in improving the gender balance in their groups and organisations.”

This sounds like a great event – I’d be really interested in what these women have to say!

Prepare for your career break

Read my advice in the Times today on preparing for your career break: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/management/article6835763.ece

Some good points to think about for women going on maternity leave, or anyone that’s taking some time out from work.

More paternity leave in store?

Could this be the step forward that we need?

The FT reported this morning that the government has backed more flexible parental leave, allowing women who return to work after six months to transfer the remaining maternity leave to their partners. This means instead of the mere two weeks leave that men are now entitled to, they will instead be able to take up to six months – three paid and another three unpaid. This would also apply to gay couples.

This is somewhat of a breakthrough. At W-Tech, one member of the audience came out with a statement and her shock and frank words summed up the current situation. She said: “I’ve been living in Sweden since 2003 – how much time do guys here get for paternity leave? Is it two weeks or something? In Sweden a guy can take up to one and a half years – there’s no discussion about who’s at home with the kids, you both are.”

This seems like a major step forward in the battle for equality – but as always, the war is not yet won. Many businesses are not happy about the changes due to the ‘administrative nightmare’ that it could cause them. And there is still speculation as to how many men would take advantage of the leave. But regardless, this news is definitely a step in the right direction and gives some very real hope for the future.

What do you think? Will we move towards a world where men and women will share the family responsibilities? Or will the women that reach the top continue to be the ones who have made the big sacrifices? Would you be happy to give some of your leave to your partner? Or are the gender roles that we’re in now just so long established that this move just isn’t enough?

Time to leave the City?

There have been some pretty disappointing statistics in the press over the past week when it comes to equality and the gender pay gap – especially in the finance sector. A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that women with full time roles in the City earn 55% less than their male counterparts – that’s almost double the 28% gender pay gap for the UK in general. Not only that, when it came to bonuses, the report found that men within finance received five times the performance related pay of women, taking home over £14,000 compared to under £3000 for females.

It is obviously unacceptable to have such discrepancies based on gender. But should we be surprised? It’s general knowledge that there is a gender pay gap, especially in the competitive arena that is the City. The important issue is how we deal with it. A piece in the Telegraph by Tracy Corrigan suggests that women should “give the City a miss”. She says “the disparity of earnings and the working conditions that make it so hard to combine motherhood and career advancement will continue to persuade many to take their skills elsewhere…Rather than trying to fix the City, or struggling to meet its harrowing demands, perhaps it is better to pursue other options.”

She has some valid points – a high flying career in the City is not easy, especially with family responsibilities. But is giving up really the best option? Yes it’s a difficult career, but surely women should have the option of pursuing it without facing huge levels of discrimination, if they want to? And if we tell women to give up, isn’t that effectively showing the City that the current situation is acceptable? This situation isn’t easy to change but if we keep persevering we will hopefully be able to make a difference, slowly but surely.

Laptop repair warning

With such a heavy reliance on technology in 2009, we all know how much of a nightmare it is when something goes wrong. But in this case, it seems that computer problems are just the beginning!

An investigation by Sky News has found that many computer repair shops are stealing information from hard drives – from photos to passwords – and even trying to hack into bank accounts. This is as well as overcharging for the work that needed to be done.

Sky took a brand new laptop, loosened the connection of the internal memory chip, installed surveillance software and took the computer to six different repair shops. Five misdiagnosed or overcharged for the fault and one was caught opening a file of photos marked ‘private’ as well as looking at passwords and attempting to login to the owner’s bank account.

So if you need your computer fixing, make sure you consult someone that you trust and keep private information safe on a hard drive at home!