Via Slashdot, I read an article today in Computer World summarizing the experience of four women and how the thrived in IT. It was definitely interesting, but I have some issues with the framing of the issues.
The first profile about Monique McKeon who eventually worked for the Chubb Corp ( a woman friendly place apparently where she is happy) experienced in her early career in IT a struggle between her home life and having a flourishing career.
At the consultancy, her travel schedule kept her out of town more than she was comfortable with. Then, when her first child was born, the bottom fell out. â€œI heard through the grapevine that one of the partners said I wasnâ€™t as committed as before I had children,â€? she says. â€œThat was the day I started looking for a job.
Please don’t tell me the work place doesn’t discriminate against working mothers. If a male employee showed affection or interest towards one of their children, would they be called out for a lack of commitment to the job?
At the end of every profile there is a little bit of advice:
You can balance an IT career with your home life, but it means making choices that are true to your priorities and understanding the trade-offs. â€œHaving it allâ€? is a fantasy.
That’s right ladies, get used to it. You will not have the same choices, so be happy with the ones you have. I am sure the author of this piece did not intend for this article to denigrate the success of these women in anyway, but actually wanted to highlight some of the experiences of women in IT. However, it is clear that thriving doesn’t mean actually beating boys at their own game. It means learning how to balance home and career, which is not something that men have to do.
It appears, at least to me, thriving means making strategic choices that may not always be the most career savvy, but allows you relative peace and minimized discrimination. I guess in order to thrive you have to forget that you want to get to the top and “refocus” your energy to where a woman’s energy ought to be, on her family! I mean imagine you were a woman that didn’t care about having kids and just wanted to make it to the top? What are you then?
There is a lot more to the article I am not getting into here, but really grim aspect for me is the significant decrease in the number of women that are going to college for computer science. I guess in light of Cara’s excellent analysis of sexism in tech culture, why am I NOT surprised?
Coping strategies to make it in any workplace are great, but let’s not cover up the deeper issues here.