As a female in the IT industry, there is nothing that can get me as worked up as discussing diversity within the tech industry. Over my career, I have definitely felt discrimination from males who think that just because I don't have a Y chromosome that I am somehow unable to do my job well.
Early in my IT career, I was replaced in a job I had been doing for over a year by a man whom I had hired, and had been reporting to me during that year. On paper we were the same, the only difference was that I had been doing the job for the last year, and he had not -- oh and I'm a woman.
After I moved into working for IT consulting firms, I have dealt with clients asking if they could speak to someone different at my company (translation: They wanted to speak to a male). I've shown up at clientele only to have them ask if there is anyone else the company could send (before they even bothered to learn about my qualifications). Fortunately for me, the IT companies for whom I worked always 100% back me up.
The Google Manifesto Firestorm
So, when Google employee James Damore and his 10-page manifesto triggered headlines this week, my blood started to boil right away. Damore's memo pushed back against diversity hiring and suggested that men are biologically better equipped than women to work in the tech industry. Google fired him for the comments.
Ironically, the firestorm comes only one week after CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux made the case for diversity hiring and inclusive workforces during the ChannelCon conference in Austin, Texas. The IT industry as a whole could learn quite a bit from Thibodeaux's comments. ChannelE2E plans to post a video of Thibodeaux's keynote as soon as CompTIA makes it available.
Despite my lack of a Y chromosome, I have excelled in my career. I truly believe that what makes a person good in tech careers is not whether or not they are male or female, but how their mind works. There are certain qualities a person can have that make them a great fit for careers in Tech, such as being highly analytical and having problem-solving skills.
The fact that there are a lot fewer women in tech careers is more to do with the encouragement, or lack thereof, they receive throughout grade-school, junior high and high school.
Great programs like GirlStart help girls get excited about STEM. But there is still a long way to go. A 2012 report showed that there has been a 79% decline in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in a Computer Science major between 2000 and 2011.
Set Proper Examples
Women must lead by example if we are going to make any significant changes to those numbers. I get so angry when I hear moms say, in front of their daughters, "Oh, I just don't understand technology, I'll have my husband do that." The message you are sending to your children when you say that is that women can't or even shouldn't understand technology. I was lucky enough to be raised by my father, who is also in the tech industry. It didn't matter if I was a girl, he taught me how to use and fix technology. He didn't just take over and do it for me. He wanted me to figure it out on my own, and had confidence to do exactly that.
But the case for a diverse workforce goes beyond X and Y chromosomes. It helps to have a variety of backgrounds and experiences when working as a team at a company or on a service desk. There are so many variables that go into why something isn't working -- one solution that worked perfectly for one system, may not work at all in another environment. When you have several people from different backgrounds working together to tackle the problem, you can solve issues in ways you never thought of previously.
Diversity within any team of people is a good thing. Different perspectives from men, women, conservatives, liberals, different ethnicities and more, working together can get more things done. It is so important, especially within the tech industry to be able to come together to look at a problem. Celebrate our differences; they can help us reach outside of our own understanding to come to a solution that will work best, and everyone will benefit.