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Women and IT

BurningBird has been relating the frustrations of being a female Unix expert. Way back in August 2001 there was a discussion of Women in IT, for which I wrote a response that never got imported into my new blog. Maybe some parts are now relevant, so I'll repeat the some of it here.


Scripting News has started a discussion (here and here) about women in the IT industry, why there are so few of them, and wouldn't it be better if there were more. The responses from women that he's posted seem to agree that he doesn't get it. Maybe it's like the joke about what women really want. If you have to ask, you probably can't provide it anyway. Then again, if you never ask, you'll never find out.

The situation in Germany is probably worse, since there are so many factors against working women in general, especially those with children. We've complained about these numerous times here: rare and expensive day care, half-day schools, long maternity leaves, etc.

At my company, of our 8 network administrators, 2 are women, which I think is a unusually high percentage. (One is currently on maternity leave; she plans to come back half-time in January.) Of the 40 or so programmers, currently none are women, although we had two women who left the company last year.

Interestingly, of those 4 women, only one programmer came to the
profession via the Gymnasium->University route. The two admins both took the Realschule->Vocational School track, while the other programmer was a career switcher with training paid for the by the Arbeitsamt (Unemployment Agency). I would guess that 80% of our programmers and admins come from the University.

Secondary education in Germany is traditionally split at the 5th grade into university prep (Gymnasium) and vocational school prep (Realschule and Hauptschule). Both our female admins have told stories of how their teachers tried to steer them away from math and technical courses.

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