Ones of these things in not like the others

Ok, ok, ok, ok. I am ready to talk about it and not bitch about people bitching about it. Time to talk about the whole issue of lack of women in the tech industry. Today I was at an engineering offsite meeting, and spent the entire day in a conference with 25 men, and me. All of the other women in the company, all maybe-eight of them, were in the other room in sales and marketing meetings. I am used to being the only girl in a group, but today’s meeting made the fact that my company has only one girl in engineering pretty obvious.

Let me back up and explain my baggage about this issue. I had an excellent education with every advantage a girl could ask for. Now I wasn’t programming computers as a kid like Anna, but I was around computers and frankly didn’t have any interest in them. I had excellent female role models in my mom and my teachers. I went to college knowing that I could do whatever I wanted. I took computer programming classes and prided myself on acing them class while my guy friends stuggled. At my first job after college, the first five managers in my line of reporting were women. And I worked with so many women that I bitched about their cattiness.

So you can see why I didn’t really see the need for women’s networking groups, or special ‘hand-holding’ and such for women. Whenever anything related to this topic came up, I’d just roll my eyes and change the subject. But my attitude towards this has started to change.

Maybe it is working at a company where there are no women in management positions is a bit more of a shock than I’d be willing to admit. Maybe it is that I have actually joined a women’s networking group have been shocked to meet some really amazing women.

Maybe it is because after being out in the real world for about six years now, the little comments here and there, the realization that I am probably not making as much as my male coworkers, and looks from men that are a little surprised when I do something uber-geeky are starting to get to me.

I read Anna‘s post, and I like that she focuses on the main issue of money. Money is how companies and clients show how much value they place on a person’s work. I don’t care about slaps on the back or mission statements about diversity. If you really value me, you’ll compensate me appropriately for the work that I am performing. So that’s what I am going to focus on as well: why I think women don’t get paid as much as men in the tech industry:

  • Women tend to hold extremely technical and important positions, but positions that aren’t valued by companies as much as “hard core” programmers. Most of the women in tech who I know, including myself, are technical writers, designers, usability engineers, marketing people, and project managers. These positions require deep technical knowledge as well as an incredibly diverse set of other skills, but yet aren’t paid as much as the programmer. Companies that recognize the importance of these type of people in an organization tend to have more women and tend to pay these women more.
  • Women tend to not ask for as much money as men. When I was looking for a new job, a was really timid when asked about salary. With the advice from a guy, I asked for much more than I would have otherwise, and was shocked when I was offered even more than that. I dont’ know why this is so hard for us women. I had heard that women don’t, and then experienced it first hand. And I think I am pretty confident and demanding too.
  • It really is about who you know, not what you know. I didn’t want to believe this for years, but ok, fine. I believe it now. When a group is dominated by men, it makes getting to meet people harder for women. Not impossible by any means, but it is just harder. It is easier for me to talk about clothes and dating with the other girls than D&D with the guys. Therefore, we don’t have the same connections and don’t have the same opportunities for career advancement. I hate to admit that, but I am realizing that it is true.
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