Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gender Gap - Women in IT

In an article in Information week, which was subsequently covered by American Marketing Association, the gender gap in the IT sector has been discussed. According the Information Technology Association of America, Men outnumber women in IT by a ratio of 4-to-1 and there are 18.5% fewer women in tech jobs today than eight years ago.
Though the article talks about the various associations and initiatives being taken to resolve this gap, the reason I picked this up is to highlight an emerging segment, and the cues that can be taken to market this segment.
In the Indian context, IT sector is one of the most booming sectors, and close to 70-80% students enter the Engineering stream. Incidentally, a majority of the newly ‘created’ Engineers are men, and very few women have a knack for technology.
Reasons? I do not intend to get into the Men vs. Women and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus kind of arguments, but what I am alluding to is a perception of the subject per se. Women are probably averse to basic sciences (not applied sciences) and typecast Engineering, atleast in India.
Lets keep Engineering aside, and talk more of IT. Earlier, IT was not a preferred sector to work with due to its demanding schedules and late working hours. A back-end support also was something that involved a lot of stress, with which many women were not comfortable with.
But two developments over the past few years has changed this perception altogether.
Firstly, Indian IT has moved up the value chain. We no longer are involved in back end support system and testing kind of activities. Systems Integration, Design and development and Functional Consulting are the profiles that most of the multinationals prefer to pass on to this part of the world. This shows an emerging confidence and credibility being attached to the Indian economy and the professionals from the subcontinent.
Secondly, with higher jobs and opportunities comes a higher rate of attrition, obviously. Employees are no longer satisfied with the right kind of work. They need the right kind of people to work with, the right kind of policies working for them, the right kind of work environment and the right kind of work-life balance. If they don’t find it with you, they can find it with someone else! That’s the reason why we have so many “participative” theories and “team building” exercises in offer. So much so that an entire business has been made out of this!
These developments have, in turn, encouraged involvement of women in this segment as well. With “sabbaticals”, “family package dealss” “Fun in the organization (FITO)” and “work-from-home” kind of policies, IT industry has recently emerged as one of the most suitable career paths for Indian women who prefer to maintain a perfect work-life balance.

I second the author’s opinion, when she says – “When it comes to concerns about juggling family and work, tech fields are more attractive than many other professions” and "IT lends itself to balance" because of the opportunity to telecommute, when possible.”. Read the article for a better insight into the measures that have been adopted to ensure parity between the genders within the next 20-30 years! Nice initiative.

Nonetheless, ‘women in the IT sector’ constitute a different segment, emerging out of the need to balance their work and life, stay career-oriented, but at the same time, not to compromise on its attention to the family. In short, stay connected – emotionally as well as professionally. They get driven by “relaxation” methods at home and other stress busters! In fact, in one of my earlier posts on Sandwiched generation, I had mentioned about the women sandwiched between two generations. A major chunk of the “women in the IT sector” is part of this sandwiched generation, and more or less follow the same trend vis-à-vis marketing efforts. Have a look at Stressful Sandwiches for more details. Also, gimcracks or services that reiterate her preference for the family or those that have an emotive appeal should be looked at. She does not like short-cuts or gizmos that give an idea of a short-cut might not appeal to her, as it gives a feeling of a compromise being made in her efforts towards the family. She is responsible for the health of the family, so “nutrition” is another suggestive plank that would appeal to her.

These were some of the points I could think of. Nonetheless, an interesting area to delve into, for sure!
[Author of the original article - Marianne Kolbasuk Mcgee]


Holly Buchanan said...

I work for a website consulting company - I don't know if that is classified as "IT" work or not - but I do know I work almost exclusively with men.

But the one thing I love most about my work is I can do it from anywhere - I can work from my home office or the NY office - I can set my own schedule. that flexibility is priceless to me.

I don't think there's nearly as much discrimination as there used to be. But I do believe unconscious bias still exists - for men and women. (when you think of a scientist - do you think of Ablert Einstein or Marie Curie?)

If you want to attract more women to IT - I agree - flexibility and control over your schedule should definately get more women interested.


shitij said...

concept of Sandwiched generation is interesting ...

IT sucks.

I hope ten years from now people will be exposed to the side affects of working in this sector.....then it will be too late.already mankind is becoming slave to technology.