The low number of women in information technology careers has been the subject of commentary for decades. There are various reasons why, some in the industry say: Women just don’t go into tech, or those that do aren’t aggressive enough. Blatant sexism is rarely acknowledged.
Another contribution came today on CBC Radio’s Toronto show Metro Morning, where book editor and Web designer Lyndsay Kirkham recalled a conversation she overheard Monday between several people at a table beside here who she believes work for one of the country’s biggest tech vendors.
“They were talking about how they weren’t going to be hiring any new women – specifically any young women – that they were only going to be hiring mature women, because young women get pregnant again and again and again.”
There was some “head-nodding and quiet yeses, she recalled.
“They then went on to talk about how women needed to take extra time in the summer because they needed to de-stress from the work, home stress, and how mature women were a better bet [for hiring] because they had already done their child-rearing.”
You can listen to the interview with host Matt Galloway here.
Kirkham tweeted the conversation live, and, she said, was overwhelmed with responses, including from some who wrote they’d seen or heard the same.
“I was shocked,” she told Galloway, “because I couldn’t believe they were so comfortable in their sexism that they were willing to have this conversation in public … It just underlined for me that while we’ve got female CEOs — Virginia (Rometty of IBM) Sheryl (Sandberg, COO of Facebook and co-author of Lean In) and Marissa (Mayer of Yahoo), this ethos is so pervasive.”
I couldn’t get hold of Kirkham in time for deadline to find out where this conversation took place and how she knew the people worked for a tech company — perhaps it was in the company cafeteria, or the people at the other table were wearing name tags.
It doesn’t matter. Every organization has to be prepared to deal with women who want maternity leave, and train staff that it’s a part of employment. More important, it’s vital organizations have policies to encourage women to both have families and have careers because they are just as important a resource to the enterprise as men — in fact, that’s why they were hired: Because their talent was recognized.
Is this your organization’s attitude? Let me know in the comments section below.