• 03/26/2014
    10:00 AM
  • Rating: 
    0 votes
    Vote up!
    Vote down!

3 Survival Tips For Women In IT

The technology industry -- especially the networking field -- can be an awfully isolating place for a woman. I offer three ways to cope.

After reading the latest horror story of “woman’s STEM career gone bad,” I was particularly surprised by one of the reactions to the sordid account of former GitHub employee, Julie Horvath. When I posted the news report to one of my social media accounts, the only negative response came from another woman, a highly educated former classmate, who conveyed skepticism and her belief that Horvath might have attracted the harassment. I replied that unfortunately I didn’t find this story surprising at all, just depressing.

What I didn’t say was how disappointed I felt by the lack of empathy in her response; it felt like one more expression of personal scorn. I was accustomed to receiving this type of response in the male-dominated tech community. But I expected compassion, not suspicion, from my accomplished female acquaintance.

The worst thing about being a STEM woman is the professional loneliness I experience most days. It’s alienating to look out over a sea of male faces, never seeing myself mirrored back. At some jobs, it has been common for me to go entire days without ever interacting with another woman, unless working with administrative staff.

While there seems to be a few more women in IT, they still haven’t managed to permeate some of the more testosterone-laced domains, such as networking. And when I finally do manage to secure a spot on a technical team with another female, we don’t really know how to relate to each other. 

Read the rest of the article on Network Computing.


Mentor, don't hate

The problem with women in IT is the same problem in any other industry - women are not socialized to, nor encouraged, to help other women.  Instead, as evidenced by Julia Horvath's experience at GitHub, they pile on the contempt when another woman attempts to bring attention to the vast inequalities and outright discrimination against women in tech. The solution lies in continuing to work tirelessly for a gender neutral environment and raising our daughters to seek out meaningful friendships with other women instead of encouraging the catty/petty behavior they see on TV.

Re: Mentor, don't hate

You are absolutely right.

I work with a team of 40 men and being the only woman i have felt really isolated. A couple of weeks back, another lady joined our team and ever since, all we could say to each other has been "hi ...hi". We could not just relate with each other as we should.It does take a lot of perseverance and strong will to survive in the IT world as a woman.


Re: Mentor, don't hate

Thanks for sharing your experience here @Lizodole. Do you think Michele's suggested coping mechanisms are helpful and/or practical?

Re: Mentor, don't hate

Absolutely! Quite helpful i must say.

Thanks Marcia

Re: Mentor, don't hate

I am sorry to hear that you feel isolated at times in the industry. This feeling goes for women and minorities in general. Often those in the industry feel threaten by both groups - I recently ran accross an tech who made me feel embarrassed of the profession.

It was easy to see he could not relate effectively to anyone or anything outside of a computer and it was sad and insulting. It reflects poorly on the profession as a whole - and what is even worse is that he was more the rule rather than the exception.

If you have issue relating to people and that is the real reason you entered the profession of computing, then find another industry. IT does need anymore jerks - it has enough !

Hang in there Ola - being a pioneer is never easy.

Re: Mentor, don't hate

Right ClassC, clearly the industry has a long way to go until those types of people become exceptions rather than the rule. However, I was heartened to see a number of women at the USENIX Annual Technical Conference yesterday, and the keynote was given by a pioneer in networking, Radia Perlman. A woman also co-chaired the conference.

Re: Mentor, don't hate

@Marcia    That is encouraging news -  Thanks for passing it along ! Women and Minorities have a long road to travel but it is nice to hear our journey's have at least begun.