I always find the editorial in ComputerWorld to be insightful and thought provoking. The July 13, 2001 issue (page 8) was no exception.
I wrote a scathing letter to QSol and to Linux Journal‘s editor for dreaming up that dreadful ad last November, and for stooping to accept money to publish it, respectively. If it weren’t bad enough that many consider those of us in IT to be geeks, now, thanks to advertising like that in the Linux Journal, we’re also going to be thought of as lechers, pigs and Neanderthals, dragging the rare female IT worker into our cubicles by the hair (using our pocket protectors, I presume). As a man, I found it abhorrent and was ashamed for my gender – I’m sure no woman could have taken a hand in writing that ad. Had I been a woman, I’m sure I would have seen it as yet another nail in the coffin of the ideal of equality, respect and decency between the sexes.
Regarding the study of women’s perception of work in IT: After 25 plus years in the industry, primarily as a developer, I think I agree with women’s perception of IT. It can be very boring, un-cool, very isolated and anti-social. It can also be exciting and energizing on occasion. Life-affirming? Generally, no.
What I’ve found over all the years is that the projects that excite management most are the ones that have the potential to put the greatest number of people out of work. Second, in popularity are the ones which get already-stressed people to do more with less. I’ve worked on projects that I knew would eliminate jobs, causing real hardship to real people and their families while they found new work. Not something of which to be proud.
Well, one can always soothe these moral dilemmas by repeating the North American credo: “better them than me.” Ideally, better none at all. On the other hand, whole industries have sprung up which no one had even thought of 25 years ago, thanks to computers. Somehow, I don’t think Canada’s chronically unemployed and homeless come from the world of IT, so I’m not convinced that our vibrant computer industry is going to help them.
My advice to people entering the IT workplace: Do it with your eyes open. You probably won’t feel the sun on your face, travel the world, meet exciting people, drink good coffee or breathe fresh air, but you can make a pretty good salary and maybe you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life with that, if nothing else. Above all, try to find a niche where your work will count for something, make something better for someone without disenfranchising someone else.
As for me, if I had to do it all over again, I think I would have got into something that improves mankind’s lot, like medicine or teaching, or something which helps to build a sustainable future like alternative fuel systems or pollution control. These things don’t always pay well as IT, but, done properly, they can make a difference to real people’s lives.