By Ed Coghlan
Watch any television show that has a character who is adept in technology and you are likely to find it is not played by a woman.
Is it media bias or reality?
Could be a little of each.
Why aren’t more women pursuing careers in information technology? The numbers are staggering. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that women held over half (57%) of all professional occupations, but only 25% of technology occupations.
For Rachel Jones, a Houston technology executive who has been navigating in a man’s world for over two decades, this is a personal crusade.
“Before I leave this industry, I want to attract the best and brightest women into the industry,” she says. “The industry needs it. There are many jobs available today and will be in the future. This is a great career for women.”
Jones is a principal at Sourcedev, a firm that helps train businesses and individuals in information technology certification. One certification she believes is especially valuable is Microsoft’s MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate).
“Whether it’s a woman who is just entering the business world or is looking at career enhancement, MTA skills development enhances your knowledge in a number of areas including infrastructure, databases and software development,” Jones said.
Jones has a great story about how she found herself in the technology field. It wasn’t her master plan; in fact it was kind of an accident.
“I worked in a petroleum engineering firm in the 1980s when the first personal computer came into our office,” Jones laughingly remembers.
“None of the men in the office wanted any part of it. In fact, it was being used as a bookend.”
Jones took the PC home each night to learn it, which began a love affair with the industry that continues today.
“I learned all about the computer, became the computer expert in the office, and then went back and earned my computer science degree,” she said.
“The perception is that a technology expert is a geeky looking guy with coke bottled glasses wearing a plaid shirt and striped pants who stays in his dorm room on Friday night. The reality is increasingly quite to the contrary.”
And yet, Jones concedes, information technology is still a male oriented industry. Even males in the business wonder why.
“When I was an undergrad majoring in computer science at UC Irvine ten years ago, I often wondered about the lack of women finishing our major,” said Eugene Lai, CEO of Courgent Technologies of Newport Beach, CA, which creates online marketing strategies for companies and organizations.
“I do think the trend is changing, especially as technology continues to expand its importance in marketing strategies and tactics.”
Victoria Pohto, a Product Manager for Microsoft, understands that perception, but thinks it is not just limited to marketing.
“I didn’t see myself as a technology person, but as a marketing person when I started working here,” Pohto said. “I took the MTA training which I learned can not only help women like me with their careers, but also inspire more women into the IT field.
Jones agrees, but thinks the opportunities for women are as vast as the information technology industry itself.
“The jobs that are available in this field are more plentiful than people are trained for,” she said. “If you have a daughter, guide her to our industry. She won’t regret it.”
For a look at organizations that are encouraging more women in IT, read this.