New Gal on the BlockSoftware engineer Katlyn Daniluk, who’s been in the business for two years and works at the San Francisco cloud-based collaboration and project management company Mavenlink, says she’s not surprised that there were no women engineers at companies she interviewed with early on. She encountered so few women in her engineering classes, she was prepared for the dynamic. For her – and for many women -- working in a predominately male environment presents challenges that men don’t face. For example, she often has to work harder in order to make her voice heard during the work day.
Dropping OutDaniluk and Georgia Andrews, who’s been in the business for about two years as a software engineer at insurance-industry software provider Guidewire Software in Foster City, Calif., are reaching a relatively critical stage in their careers. In 2003 only 33 percent of the women who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science were still working in an engineering, science or technical job two years later, according to NCWIT. For men, the retention rate was much higher: 50 percent were still in the industry during the same timeframe. The Special Report:
- Women in IT Face Down Stereotypes and Bias
- Schools Push for Women Computer Scientists
- H-1B Women Few and Far Between
- Interview: Lyla Perrodin, CIO, MRIGlobal
- The Disappearing Women of IT
The toughest period for women in technology seems to come 10 to 20 years into their career. It’s at that point that attrition spikes sharply, according to the NCWIT. After a decade, 41 percent of women leave technology, compared to just 17 percent of men. And as the range stretches out to 20 years, the percentage of women who leave climbs to 56 percent.Another reason women depart is a lack of advancement, according to NCWIT CEO Lucy Sanders. “When women have kids and the bulk of the household work, they get busier. And if they think they’ve reached a career plateau, they’re likely to go somewhere else,” she observes. “Often, women complain about job satisfaction when they hold low-status IT jobs. So, when you get to be mid-career but still hold a low-status job, that may be when you leave.” Sanders notes there are not enough female chief technology officers or R&D vice. NCWIT’s Women in IT: The Facts notes that only 9 percent of IT management positions such as CTO, CIO, vice president and director are held by women. That figure is far below the 25 percent that women represent in IT. That 9 percent figure makes it difficult to demonstrate a promising career path for women considering technical careers. “There’s a cultural, unconscious bias,” Sanders says when asked about why women may be excluded from roles like technical fellow, R&D vice president and CTO. For example, say a company names some employees distinguished engineers and fellows. If all of these are men, and the committee to select next year’s fellows relies on its past recipients, women may have a more difficult time understanding what it takes to join the elite group. “Society has a bias when it comes to women and men in tech. This has been documented in a number of ways. If you take the same resume and put a woman’s name on it, the woman is judged more harshly than the man,” says Sanders. “In many technical organizations, women start out under-represented in creative technology jobs, where they are the visionary and making choices of what will go into a product or service.” As a result, they’re put on a career track that may eventually lead to a CIO position, which is more about buying and using technology than creating new services for the company’s customers to use.