Monday, November 07, 2005

Women in Tech Leadership

Because my brain cells are not always responsive to my conscious demands upon them to cough up information that I know damn well they’re hiding behind their backs or under the bed or behind the couch, I cannot at this moment recall the exact place I stumbled upon a discussion of women in leadership roles in technology. I think it was in comments to a post on Jill’s blog. I’m pretty sure there were other occasions in other blogs where I read discussion(s) of the lack of women leaders at CXX level. I recall pitching in my 2 cents that there are more younger women in technology roles at the place where I work now than ever before, and a number of women are in executive roles reporting to the CEO.

One can continue to hope that these older women are paving the way for the younger ones to eventually become leaders in more representative numbers. It would be nice if the percentage of males and females in today’s senior leadership mirrored the overall percentage of male and female employees, too. (Yeah, I know, “nice” isn’t a valid determiner of shareholder value and thus, cannot be used as a measuring stick for corporate standards. I say, “fooey on that”). But I wondered why there are so few women CXX’s. So I started doing a bit of Googling.

It appears, (and I grant, from a very small amount of research and some conjecture on my part) that perhaps part of the reason women are currently under-represented is that the current wave of high tech industry leaders were entering college at a time when women were just beginning to seriously (and with the support of the feminist movement – aggressively) break into the most strongly male dominated areas of study and endeavor. I know that there also a number of social/societal aspects to this – but I’m keeping to a narrow focus – this is a blog, for goodness sakes, not my PhD dissertation.

The late 60’s and early 70’s saw a lot of effort to get equal access for women in various strongly male dominated aspects of education, for example Title IX mandating equal funding at schools and universities for female athletic programs, and the acceptance of the first women to enter Military Academies, which happened in 1976 (with the exception of the Coast Guard, which took them in ’75). Because I was entering college at that time I witnessed a lot of it. Thus, women of that era were trailblazers and it takes time to turn a trail into a thoroughfare, which, I believe is one of the reasons why there are a mere handful of women who were part of the birth of the technologies of today and, I believe, why it’s the men who were there that dominate the leadership right now.

For the percentages of females getting degrees in Science and Technology, I found this factoid via a Google searchabout midway down the page:

In a collection of articles from the Commission on Professionals in Science & Technology"Scientists and Engineers for the New Millennium: Renewing the Human Resource; A collection of the Commissionon Professionals in Science and Technology" Babco and Marry Golladay collaborate and state:

"Women have increased their percent of earned degrees in Science and Engineering fields at all levels since 1970, rising from 28% of S&E degrees to over 48% in 1997 at the bachelor's level. Their proportion has increased more dramaticallyat the doctorate level, where the proportion of degrees to women in S&E fieldsrose from 9% in 1970 to nearly 33% in 1997. Increases at the master's level have been intermediate between the bachelor's and doctorate degree levels."

That said, I also read a press release today on Business Wire (I got a free membership there – interesting place) about an initiative to help increase the numbers of women in technology and science fields.

…the National Center for Women; Information Technology (NCWIT) to increase awareness of education and career opportunities for girls and women in science, technology, math and engineering. The initiative introduces a comprehensive digital library designed to give students, parents and educators the tools to learn more about careers in high-tech fields and the importance of girls' participation.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that more than two million professional technology-related jobs will be added to the US workforce by 2012. But according to recent research from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an industry trade group, the percentage of women in the American information technology (IT) workforce has declined by 18.5 percent in eight years, with women now representing barely one-quarter of IT workers.

To address this trend, the initiative provides students, parents and educators with a variety of tips for encouraging young women to excel in math, computing and technology, along with sample lesson plans for teaching computing to girls. The program website also houses a wealth of information for students about interesting careers in technology and details about local clubs, programs and summer camps for girls in technology.

I hope this effort helps make a big difference for the future.

Now, for a little fun. I shamelessly steal this from Erudite Redneck’s blog – it’s a “man meme” called “What's in your pockets -- right now?” I tag Ray and Mark and Emeraldcite.

To explain the meme further, Erudite Redneck said on his blog: “I call this a "man meme" because I know few women who carry much in their pockets because they carry purses, and a What's in Your Purse Meme might collapse the whole damn Internet.”My female friends who carry things in their pockets are invited to participate. My female friends with purses may share those contents as well, but if your purse is like mine you probably don’t want to spend the next hour writing about it…


emeraldcite said...

"Is that a pen in your pocket or are you happy to see me?"

"Yeah, it's a pen," I say.

"No, really."

"Really. A Pen. A little Molesking notebook. My wallet, my keys, my cell. Oh my god, my pants are falling down. I thought I was overweight, but it's all this junk I carry with me. So long crash diet!"

Dawno said...

Yay! Someone actually responds! I'm glad to hear you won't have to subject yourself to weeks of warm water and kiwi fruit or whatever the latest fad diet is this month.

Ray Wong said...

What's in my pockets? You don't want to you know... or maybe you do, but you will have to pay, dearly. It's really big...

OK... let's see... keys (car, house, and mystery), wallet, coins, cell phone, chapstick, a piece of paper, a condom... wait, no, it's just a piece of gum. Lint. Lots of lint.

Dawno said...

Just *one* mystery key? I have a whole tray in a drawer full of 'em.