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Why Are There So Few Women in IT?

Well, I started this thread on a web hosting site I frequent, and I figured it’d be a hot-button issue. For those of you who aren’t interested in reading the whole thread, I asked “Why do you think only 1% of our dedicated server and colocation customers are female?” (Actually, it’s worth noting that we have no female colo customers, and believe me, we have enough customers to make that judgment at this point. I’d say the percentage there will be less than 1% even as we continue to grow.)

We do have several women who utilize our shared and reseller hosting plans, but they don’t seem to make the leap from there to dedicated servers or colocation. So I asked why, knowing “women in IT” is a hot-button issue, but wanting to hear opinions regardless.

Before I post my opinion, I’d like you to see what some other people said. It’s important to single these out so those of you who are male and reading this will get a glimpse of what women in this industry hear on a daily basis.

“Because colo or dedicated servers are more complicated to handle for the typical women?”
“Well there aren’t too many guys working at the flower shops either. Some markets are just gender specific.”
“I personally think women…are less likely to take risks…”
“Fact: Men in general are bigger risk takers than women.” (Side note: I love how this was presented as a fact.)
“I think the thing here is that, generally the males use the computers a lot while the females are out putting on makeup…”
“The majority of [women] can be rather emotional compared to men (and yes, I do believe that statement is a proven fact)…” (Side note: What does being emotional have to do with leasing a dedicated server?)
“Women like pretty things. Us men like technical stuff. I really can’t see a woman drooling over the latest GeForce graphics cards and AMD processors can you?”

Now that you’ve heard some of the “facts” that are perpetuated in this industry, I’d like you to hear some actual analysis. I’ll present some of the opinions by others first:

“The fact is that the number of men in the IT field is far greater than the number of women, so naturally it will appear that it is the men who are constantly doing well in the field; its very easy for the small number of women to be left unnoticed and lost among the crowd. The few women I know who actually dared to depart from the norm and enter into this male-dominated industry have done just as well as the men (if not better in some cases), and they enjoy their jobs just as much as their male-counterparts.

As mentioned before, not many people deviate from societal norms. Men who show great interest in IT, gadgets and the like, are conforming to societal norms, women who do the same are going against societal norms. You will always find that very few people bother to, or are willing to ‘go against the grain’.”
(written by a woman who runs a web hosting company)

“Are there more men in IT? Yes. Is it because men are better suited for it? There are studies I’m sure, that go both ways on this, and a professor at Harvard just recently got himself in a bit of trouble with his observations. The fact is, I see women in IT, and have worked with women in IT, who do a far better job than most, of not all, of the men. The biggest thing that I see in IT that women need to overcome is sexism. This conversation, thus far, does not surprise me at all. Men, in general, think that women are not “made” for IT.

My input into this conversation, to answer the original question, is simply that I think society has geared women in one direction for centuries, and 80 years (since they got the vote in the US) is not going to change that. The next generation, however, will be different. Our daughters will be able to do more than their mothers could, but still not everything that I believe they should be able to. Society takes a while to catch up.”
(written by a man who runs a web hosting company)

What I wanted to showcase here is the shocking assumptions that make their way through this industry as “fact”. “Fact: Women aren’t risk takers.” “Fact: Women would rather put on makeup than use a computer.” “Fact: Women just aren’t good at math.” (I’m actually surprised that third one didn’t pop up in this thread, but give it time and it probably will.) Taken out of context, these “facts” seem almost laughable, but they are sadly the norm in this industry. Why is this, and what can we do to change it? I will address that in my next blog (which should be posted in just a few minutes.)

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