In the early 80s I started my career in IT as a trainee programmer working in a software bureau where the proportion of men and women were more or less equal. In fact, my second boss was female. In these early days we did everything. We wrote code, we managed what was then a complicated process of printing and distributing reports, and we could re generate the whole computer from a cold start.
Times have changed. Our 1981 state of the art PDP 11/34 and 11/70 each with 1 meg of memory needed a whole air conditioned room and the disc drives were the size of a small washing machine. We worked at a highly technical level and yet unlike today’s range of IT disciplines it was basically code, operate or fix!
In the 1980s women were common in IT. Their qualifications were varied. Some had degrees in maths or science subjects, others came from a background of History, English or even Archaeology. The two things they had in common were they all had degrees, but not in computing.
These women have made great careers in IT particularly in the disciplines of Integration, Business Analysis, Change and Project Management. They have excelled in liaising and communicating between the business areas and the I.T. department.
So what has happened? Why does it seem that young women are not entering IT in the same percentage as 35 years ago? There are now a wealth of courses and degrees in a range of IT disciplines offered by Colleges and Universities. However they just don’t seem to appeal to girls. There were two girls on my older sons University course of Electronic and Computer Engineering. On my younger sons multi media college course only a handful of girls finished. Why are boys dominating these courses and what can we do about it? Is it the same in other countries or just in the UK? Does it matter?
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