Why aren’t there more women in IT?

Some kind of gender diversity in testing debate started on Twitter on the weekend, and it seems to have become a series of blog posts, like this one. I found most of the discussion to be pretty confusing. It seems like everyone is keen to get more women in the IT field, so why aren’t there more? There seems to be this idea that women feel somehow repelled by all the men already in the industry, whether it be due to intimidation, exclusion, or something like that.

So I thought I’d ask around for some answers.

First, I went to my favourite IRC chatroom with some of my favourite geeks, who are all male. I asked them if they thought there weren’t enough women in the industry, or if there were too many, or if it was just right.

“Not enough. It’s a total sausage fest in here”

Okay that made me laugh, and I told my husband who is a software architect, and he said “well he’s got a point, it IS a total sausage fest in here.”

So followed a lengthy conversation where several male programmers conveyed the following points:

  • One guy said he saw women as equally capable of doing jobs in IT and he was confused about why there aren’t more women
  • One guy lamented that having less women in IT made his career choice look less studly, because there aren’t as many women around
  • One guy theorised that most women just don’t like programming, and that there’s no problem with that, it’s better if people do what they want to do

The last point made a lot of sense to me. I like programming and other geeky stuff, but most women I know aren’t very into it – even many the ones who work in an IT job and have a computer science degree. I talked with a woman programmer that I know, and she said the same thing – most women just don’t like this kind of work. And it’s not easy to do technical work if you don’t have an interest in it.

I don’t think women are being discouraged from being in IT, at least in Australia. And I’ve met heaps of women testers. In some places they’ve outnumbered the male testers. So maybe this women in IT issue is not as much of an issue on these shores?