Contrary to what people might think, the idea of women in IT is part of a strong tradition with long-established roots: in fact, many members of the ‘fair sex’ have made notable contributions, which have enabled technological development resulting in the creation of many devices in daily use.
Women in IT: a question of ‘prejudice’
When people think of IT, they mistakenly associate it with predominantly male exponents, which is probably due to the fact that most of the names behind the leading brands in the sector are men.
In a sense, such a view is logical considering that, proportionately, the number of women employed in this sector is lower than the number of men. The results of university studies show how the ratio between the sexes leans clearly towards men when it comes to the faculties of Engineering and IT.
However, it could be exactly this kind of ‘prejudice’ which has determined such a marked disparity. In other words, it is plausible that the low female take-up of courses related to these disciplines can be attributed to the fact that such courses are often viewed as a predominantly male prerogative (just as the number of male teachers is overall much lower than that of female teachers).
Despite the battle for gender equality which has (rightly) opened the door to equal rights for the sexes, it is inevitable that on closer examination of specific case studies, we find that many people struggle to escape certain deep-rooted preconceptions.
How women resolve problems in IT
Regardless of equal rights issues, it is mistaken to consider engineering or IT as predominantly male subjects due to the kind of skills required. An engineer’s main task is not only to build machines and instruments to facilitate human life: it involves much more.
The real skill in engineering lies in the resolution of problems and the formulation of solutions that can meet people’s needs effectively, thereby contributing to human progress. In order to find solutions to specific issues, it is important to understand how people are conditioned by these issues.
This point illustrates how soft skills such as empathy and the ability to build interpersonal relationships, typically more developed in females, are determining factors in the IT field, shattering the futile ‘prejudices’ mentioned above.
Programmers may be extremely talented and familiar with many different programming languages, but if the algorithms they develop do not meet their clients’ requirements or are too complicated for general use, it is a useless exercise.
Great women of IT
Perhaps it is not widely known, but women have played a key role in the development of this field over at least the last 400 years and their contribution has laid the foundations for the most recent innovations.
For example, if it wasn’t for Karen Spärck Jones, Google would not exist, as it is based on research algorithms that she developed. Neither would the terms ‘bug’ and ‘debug’ exist without the brilliant Grace Murray Hopper, creator of the COBOL language. Another example is wireless networks, which would never have seen the light of day if hadn’t been for the brilliant intuition of Hedy Lamarr.
In brief, women were, are and will always be a precious resource in IT and engineering. As such, they should be encouraged and spurred on to fulfil their aspirations, so that the talent they possess can become an endless source of greatness.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith