Woman Walks Past Men
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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.






  1. I head up an IT department at a large industrial manufacturer, and we (even in other departments) have a hard time finding any women (young or old) to fill positions. I could say something that would sound sexist like women only want the office jobs, and while my experience bears this out, when we do get female applicants, they appear horrified when we tell them that they will actually have to get dirty when a technician is required out in the mill. Sounds sexist, right? My male technicians have no choice, servicing equipment on the production floor is what I pay them to do. Not all high paying IT jobs are sitting in a server room. We have a few females on shift in production and they are perfectly capable and enjoy the salaries, but they have accepted the conditions. Same goes for welders and millwrights, we have had a few females there as well. Most of the males I have seen in IT would not be able to work in an industrial facility, and in my opinion most of them lack any real-world, usable skills anyways. So, while I would hire a female in my department any day, I would also hire anyone with reasonable abilities in troubleshooting and the desire to actually solve a problem that means that they get out from behind their computer. Problem is that, male or female, these people are few and very far between.

  2. Why would the pregnancy logic only apply to IT? I have worked in IT (developer) for 30 years and not encountered a negative attitude towards women. True, most of my co-workers are male, but most females that I know (including nieces) are not interested in coding. Debugging isn’t for everybody and marketing sounds a lot more sexy to many.

  3. I spent 3 years in university learning the skills required to work in the IT industry and 1/3 of my classmates were women. I now have 14 years experience working in this industry and have never seen or heard this attitude expressed, and most of my managers are and have been women. I also have many female co-workers and I have never seen them penalized in any way for time spent raising their children. I think this attitude may exist in small companies, but both large corporations who have employed me in IT actively recruit and promote women.

  4. Obviously those managers didn’t meet me. I’m male and took parental time off when both my children were born. So yes, men can also be looked at in a similar manner as part of the child-rearing process. This means that when more men take the parental time off, sexism will turn to ageism.

  5. Why as a male would you expect to see the sexism, it doesn’t happen to you and women don’t share with you because many men will do their best to disprove what a woman is saying instead of listening and believing.

    I am a woman in tech and have nearly walked away several times because of the sexism. I was asked in interviews “do you plan to have children”, i’ve had my ideas attributed to a male college at meetings even though it was me presenting the idea, I’ve been told while studying “go home women belong at home with children and cooking”

    Just because it hasn’t to you and you haven’t heard about doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I dare each of you to ask your female colleagues if they’ve ever felt their gender was a hinderencs.

    As for getting dirty my new dress pants are currently filthy from moving old machines around, and in my opinion it’s not part of my job description as “software developer” if I were a sys admin then ok.


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