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The female IT Crowd – where are they?

I am a woman and have worked in IT for 20 years.  I also find Channel 4’s The IT Crowd amusing.  Now funny and IT are not a common pairing which is positive for our industry. What is not so amusing or positive is it sadly panders to gender stereotypes.  If even a send-up of our industry, created by the typically PC (and not the computer variety) media industry cannot promote women in IT, what are we to do?

The programme has two males geeks banished to the basement (with the uber-nerd hiding in a cupboard).  This pair report to a female manager who hates all things technical and also knows nothing about management.  A well-meaning, scatty woman sent in to ‘sort out IT’, who craves progression and resents her role in IT .  She is not exactly a role model.

Unfortunately, this fictional scenario is played out in real world IT.  Lots of men designing, building, and operating IT with a sprinkling of ladies to add colour.  Women are typically in the margins operating in business analyst, PMO or communications roles.

How do we change the picture?

  • Women certainly need more accessible role models to whom they may aspire.  Some sisterly solidarity is needed via more self supporting networks.
  • But just networking with women is not enough. Men are typically making the selection and promotion decisions.  Their attitudes need to be changed. We need to be championed by senior management. Men need to put themselves in women’s shoes.
  • We need to ensure female skills and talents are recognised as the equal of our male counterparts. We at DMW believe firmly believe that people make the difference when delivering IT.  It is emotional intelligence coupled with technical know-how which should play to female strengths (not wanting to stereotype of course!).
  • We need to educate our daughters that being interested in science and computers is cool not nerdy. As with sex education, can IT be taught separately to boys and girls to avoid girls feeling threatened?  More female IT teachers would really help.  DMW’s CSR effort is to be focused this year on promoting IT in a London girl’s school in support of this.

It’s a complex challenge and with no single silver bullet. As IT comes out of the basement, and becomes central to business success, and more fundamentally how we lead our lives, we need to ensure that women are central to that picture.  We must be recognised for the value we bring to IT and technology more generally.  After all, over 50% of global consumers are women.

Picture this – An IT Crowd Christmas Special in 10 years.  IT now sits on the top floor next to the CEO office,  Moss is recast as an articulate, fashionably dressed lady cutting some impressive code and training a new male apprentice. Jen was headhunted and is now CIO of a rival after successfully transforming IT. Roy is still there though saying ‘Have you turned it on and off?’  Some things never change.

Note: 1842: Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was an analyst of Charles Babbage‘s analytical engine and considered the “first computer programmer.”[69]