Study examines women in tech careers

July 1, 2008 8:34:42 AM PDT
A new report has good news and bad news about women and careers in technology. The study says programs designed to attract young women into careers in science, engineering and technology are working -- that's the good news. But, the problem is many of those women leave the industry prematurely."Right now, I think hi-tech jobs are more or less all or nothing," said Baat Enosh, computer programmer.

Enosh says the all or nothing days of red-eye flights, late meetings and constant fatigue were not compatible with raising two kids. That's why she got out of the business and is not sure she will ever go back.

"It's going to require a lot more sacrifice and I don't know right now with two kids - I'm willing to make that sacrifice," said Enosh.

And she's not alone; a study of women in tech fields --sponsored by companies including Cisco, Microsoft, and Pfizer -- was recently published in the Harvard Business Review. The report is called "The Athena Factor" and it concludes that up to 52 percent of women scientists, programmers and engineers will leave the business by the time they reach their early 40s.

"The top two factors that we identify that women cite when they leave are first of all: the hostile macho work place culture and the second one is the extreme work pressures of the job," said Laura Sherbin, report author.

The report says the macho culture still excludes women from the golf course and bars where some decisions are made. And male bosses still expect 24-7 availability even when women workers are caring for young children at home.

"That culture is very different than mine is, and I would just sometimes mostly opt to go to the hotel, and go through my e-mails rather than sit at the bar," said Enosh.

The report also gives high marks to some firms for their programs designed to keep women from leaving their tech jobs. Santa Clara based Intel created a series of programs that allow senior women engineers help their younger counterparts climb the career ladder by sharing experience and expertise.

"Having special programs to help create a sense of community, to create a positive and supportive community for women in a traditionally male dominated field is extremely helpful in terms of making women feel that they belong," said Ramune Nagisetty, Intel engineer.

Written and produced by Eric Thomas

For more information please click on:

  • http://app.post.hbsp.harvard.edu/athena/athena2/index.html

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