Computing Industry: Put 2 and 2 together! Recruit more women!

December 28, 2012 at 8:56 am 5 comments

ACM Technews this week included this article about “Software Companies begging for Qualified Job Candidates“:

The big challenge facing the U.S. software industry might not be the economy, looming fiscal cliff or growing competition. First things first — the companies are begging for qualified job candidates.

Software firms say the U.S. isn’t producing enough qualified engineers and tech salespeople.

“I’d say that has been the industry’s biggest problem in the past year,” said Jeff Winter, chief executive of GravityPeople, a tech recruiting firm. “You have a harder time finding and hiring people for open positions.”

And then includes the article below about how very few women there are in the computing industry. Uh, folks? You’re not engaging 50% of the population — fixing that might help with the labor problem?

Women, however, account for just 6 per cent of the chief executives of the top 100 technology companies in the US, and just 22 per cent of the IT workforce overall, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. In the UK, women make up just 17 per cent of technology professionals, according to e-Skills, an organisation that promotes technology learning.

via Technology’s gender barrier –

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  December 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I think most companies want “someone else” to fix the problem. If you look at the list of companies supporting things like computing in the core and Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and it is a small list. Mostly the same companies with probably Google and Microsoft the two most consistent. In New York some startups and a few national companies are investing in programs like Girls Who Code but you don’t seem to see that everywhere. Silicon Valley, again excepting Google, seems to be doing little to nothing to engage getting women into CS. I don’t know how we get that to change though.

  • 2. Stephan Wessels  |  December 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    The reality I have experienced leads me to other conclusions.  Focusing on gender balance in IT does not fix the problem.  It misses the real problem entirely.

    But let me comment on the imbalance of men vs women in the tech workspace first. It is true.  However, women are hardly missing from the picture. Except for the current job, I’ve worked side by side with women daily and most times have had a women as either the boss or a vice-president level above me.

    When I read that US companies are complaining that they cannot find qualified technical people I wonder about a few things.  First, what are the jobs?  Search on the popular tech job sites and many of the jobs available right now have significant problems, in my opinion.  A part-time job or contracting position is not a commitment by the company to hire and has many costs and hazards.  The job will end.  And more than likely the job is out of town, away from home.  Contract work usually means you have to pay for own healthcare. What about the risks of purchasing a home with a part-time or contracting job?  Yes, risks of layoffs are real in full time work too, and with the IT sector that brings up the next point.

    What do these jobs pay?  Many companies are outsourcing tech work offshore.  This is done for a number of reasons.  Pay is lower with offshore labor.  Also there is less commitment.   Again, the employer often believes that low-cost technical workers are easy to find offshore so contracts can be changed.  We cannot blame the companies for this way of thinking.  Well, yes we can, but it makes sense.  In today’s world of high pressure return on investment and quick payoff the incentives are incredibly high to reduce the labor costs.  If you must answer to impatient stockholders and investors when it is pointed out that you could cut your IT hourly rates by 35 percent going offshore, do you reply that it is not good for America to outsource the demand for Tech jobs?  That your knowledge about the IT-side of the business is controlled by non-employees?

    Short term investing also leads us to this situation.  We are happy to make low payments, even though they may go on for twice as many years, than recognize the true cost of ownership of IT staff.  Efficiencies in turn-around and responsiveness are much harder to sustain when your IT staff is not your own.

    There are exceptions of course.  But generally speaking, what incentive are we creating for young people to want to enter the IT Tech Sector in the US, regardless of whether they are men or women?  Fix the situation where IT jobs are sustainable and earn enough to make the education pay off.  Then watch the workforce grow for both men and women.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  December 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      From this post, only 6% of CEO’s of IT firms are female. From other posts, we know that less than 12% of all executives in IT firms are female. Executive jobs are high-paying and indicate a commitment. That imbalance is a gender problem that is most likely due to bias. Your experience doesn’t reflect the data.

      • 4. Stephan Wessels  |  December 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

        My experience doesn’t have to agree with the data and I know it is an exception. My point is that the solution to the “begging for job candidates” is not to focus first on gender. The problem is that the jobs environment is unhealthy for any gender until the focus on short term return is addressed. Real investment in IT jobs will create the pool of candidates available.

        • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  December 31, 2012 at 10:38 am

          I used to believe in the “Rising tide lifts all boats” theory of broadening participation in computing, but we found that it didn’t work as we’d hoped with GaComputes. We did improve computing education across the state, and our Female and Hispanic numbers rose significantly. But we barely budged Black numbers. We found through Betsy DiSalvo’s work that we had to take a different approach for the different group. Overall, I’m learning that you have to understand your target population and work for them, because general approaches don’t work specifically.


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