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back to article Continued lack of women in tech bemoaned by ex-techie lady MP

The number of women enrolled in training courses preparing them to work in the tech industry has not changed for 30 years, an MP has told the House of Commons. Ahead of a debate last Friday on “attracting girls to ICT careers”, Labour MP and former shadow minister for innovation Chi Onwurah warned that Britain's tech sector was …

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Anonymous Coward

“geeky” image

I am a geek and I am proud of it.

P.S. Being a geek doesn't mean that the person is a spineless brainiac with thick glasses. Some of us hit the gym as well; not me though, I am the spineless brainiac type :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Woman who gives up,

and complains that woman gives up.

She must be a politician.

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Re: Woman who gives up,

Woman who succeeds in her profession and then enters public service to help other women succeed. She must be a politician.

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Thumb Down

Re: Woman who gives up,

If she was a successful engineer, why on earth would she want to become a politician?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Woman who gives up,

We need engineers and scientists in politics, it's a good thing.

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Re: Woman who gives up,

Because an engineer sees society as an immensly complex machine with a myriad of interacting feedback mechanisms which require adjusting from time to time?

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IT Angle

Common sense !!

Should we also teach young children to be more androgynous ? Should we have more women on building sites ? Are there too many men in the army ?.

Some jobs will always have a natural tendancy to attract more men than women and vice-versa.

Equality is not always about equal quantity. Women have exactly the same possibility of moving into the tech sector, there are no barriers whatsover for them to begin a career. As mentioned there is almost 20% of women within the industry.

I hate these kinds of articles they smell more of PC than of common sense.

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Re: Common sense !!

> Some jobs will always have a natural tendancy to attract more men than women and vice-versa.

I'd suggest rather that some jobs have a cultural tendency to attract more of one gender than the other. I strongly believe that cultural norms and peer pressure can trump biology and genetics in almost every case of workplace gender bias.

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Re: Common sense !!

Nature has a strong influence on culture, culture has a strong influence on people.. Agreed.

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Re: Common sense !!

I agree, and it would be interesting to hear the views of any female commentards. I think that there is a big difference between "not choosing" to enter the tech sector, and "choosing not" to enter it. In my first job I'd have said that the number of women was >> 16%, but that was in a city wirh a large university CS department and lots of female students. My current employer does anecdotally seem to be around that 16% figure, for a much older workforce. Have the percentages been studied with age in mind?

There is clearly no physical or mental reason why the sexes shouldn't be equally represented (unlike building sites, for example), so there must be other causes. I see no sex-related difference in the quality of engineering or design work among my colleagues, although I have found female QA engineers to be better than their male counterparts. Whether they are more conscientious, or just better at delivering criticism I'm not sure!

It is clear that around age 30-40 women do take a larger share of child-raising tasks, and whether that is cultural pressure or personal choice is a sensitive subject for debate. It can result in a career stalling, someone getting a reputation for "never wanting to travel" etc. That may not be a problem for someone with the drive & money of a Marissa Mayer but not everyone feels like her.

It isn't unusual for someone to make a life/career balance choice in early life and regret it later, and the usual double-standards raise their heads. The man who neglects family to forge a career, and later regrets his poor relationship with his children, is a staple of popular drama and it's fashionable to criticise him for his decision. If a women puts family first, and later bemoans her lack of career advancement, it gets blamed on "society" or "industry" causing problems for the women. Criticising the woman is slammed as being sexist, or playing to stereotypes. Equality by the numbers isn't the solution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Common sense !! @Phil O'Sophical

"The man who neglects family to forge a career, and later regrets his poor relationship with his children, is a staple of popular drama and it's fashionable to criticise him for his decision. If a women puts family first, and later bemoans her lack of career advancement, it gets blamed on "society" or "industry" causing problems for the women."

Wish I'd been able to put my feelings on the matter (in agreement with yours,) so concisely!

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Re: no sex-related difference in the quality of engineering or design work among my colleagues

You wouldn't because you're already past the selector. The question isn't if there's a difference between them within the group of people who do the work, the question is whether they are being drawn from the original pool with equal probability.

The problem comes when you attempt to define "original pool" for purposes of the experiment. I would define the original pool as "those with the ability to do the work who also have an interest in doing it." If that population is 50/50 male female, the number of workers would be 50/50. If for some reason that breakdown was 20/80 in a fair worker selection the worker breakdown would also be 20/80. At this point the question becomes what is the "some reason" the population moves to 20/80? If the reason has to do with sexual discrimination, there is a problem. If the reason has nothing to do with sexual discrimination there isn't a problem. But the assumption whenever this issue arises is that there cannot be non-sexual discrimination reasons for a 20/80 split.

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Re: Common sense !!

Equality of opportunity does not mean equality of outcomes. Nobody is stopping women from having productive careers in ICT, except themselves from their own free decisions.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Common sense !!

@Poor Coco - Lots of people are stopping women having careers in ICT - the amount of crap that I see the female senior developer that I work with getting from junior staff who clearly think that she isn't capable of doing her job despite all the evidence to the contrary is frankly shocking. I've heard senior UNIX department managers at a FTSE 100 company seriously discussing if they should employ women and decide not to "because women can't do unix." The examples are countless and if you think this is down to women you are part of the problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Declines and increases

"The debate heard that between 2001 and 2011 the percentage of tech jobs held by women declined from 22 per cent to 17 per cent."

On the other hand, the percentage of tech jobs held by people like Eadon increased correspondingly, which presages further declines in the percentage of tech jobs held by women.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Declines and increases

On the other hand, the percentage of tech jobs held by people like Eadon increased correspondingly,

Unwanted, off topic ad hominem. I'm no fan of Eadon, but this makes you do the same things so who are you to criticise?

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Anonymous Coward

She's right, and not just in tech.

I do not hesitate to say that having an ICT workforce more representative of humanity must result in technology which is more humane

I would like to see more women in the security business, because we urgently need to lose the idea that it's all about technology - I think we're in a reasonable state in that area. Especially at the level that we work at it's more about people, and most women I know are better wired for that than men (admittedly that's a limited sample range, but facts seem to bear this out :) ).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: She's right, and not just in tech.

"I would like to see more women in the security business"

Great idea, love to have a frisk down by Gwyneth Paltrow just before my flight !

However knowing my luck I'd get Mandy Dingle from Emmerdale Farm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: She's right, and not just in tech.

"I would like to see more women in the security business"

Great idea, love to have a frisk down by Gwyneth Paltrow just before my flight !

.. and so the stereotype continues. Sigh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: She's right, and not just in tech. @AC 10.23

I think you have been drinking too much tap water containing estradiol or chewing on bisphenol plastics.

Face it Men are genetically different from Women and have evolved that way over millions of years.

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Re: .. and so the stereotype continues. Sigh.

And how exactly do you know the previous AC was male? I've known some women who would openly make just that statement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: .. and so the stereotype continues. Sigh.

And how do you know I'm not a lesbian ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: .. and so the stereotype continues. Sigh.

I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body.

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Re: She's right, and not just in tech. @AC 10.23

Those who look very, very very closely at a typical male human being and a typical female human being will notice we’re SEXUALLY DIMORPHIC. Sexual dimorphism extends to more than gross physical characteristics, with good reason. If we didn’t have the divisions of labour between men and women that we developed as a hunter-gatherer species, we would not have survived to dominate the planet.

Ignoring this, and demanding that women comprise 50% or more (notice gender feminists never complain about sectors in which women dominate), is to ignore fundamental human nature in favour of baseless ideological twattery.

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Headmaster

Getting the gender terminology correct

In the same way as we have a gender distinction between blond and blonde, would IT be more inviting to women if they could be called a nerde or a geeke?

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Re: Getting the gender terminology correct

I doubt it. Look at France where terminology is gender-specific, we get "blogueurs" and "blogueuses" but the land of M. Chauvin doesn't seem notably better-supplied with female geek(e)s.

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Re: Getting the gender terminology correct

Anonymous IV, no, that wouldn’t make IT any more inviting. Given the derivation of blond and blonde from French, “nerde” rather suggests a suboptimal French rhyme.

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Is this what she means?

"I do not hesitate to say that having an ICT workforce more representative of humanity must result in technology which is more humane."

Is she saying that the UK's ICT workforce should be 37% Indian and Chinese?

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Re: Is she saying that the UK's ICT workforce should be 37% Indian and Chinese?

I shouldn't be suprised to be told that it was - except that most of them live, work and pay tax in India and China.

But seriously, personally I think this is a significant problem.

At the most trivial you could say that its nice for sad old middle aged geeks like me to have younger women around the workplace because it improves the ambience.

Howver I do believe that women tend to be better at some types of role than men, and in any case its always a bad thing if your industry is putting off a significant percentage of good workers that are therefore lost to other industries.

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Re: Is this what she means?

It's already 37% Indian in 3 of my last 4 jobs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this what she means?

Actually, she appears to be saying that the ICT workforce should be composed of at least 90% people who have zero knowledge of ICT.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this what she means?

Actually, she appears to be saying that the ICT workforce should be composed of at least 90% people who have zero knowledge of ICT

Given from what I see of gov IT projects, it can be argued that that is already the case.

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Holmes

Either El Reg selectoquoting or a goldmine of confusion

"The lack of women represents a loss to society of the types of ICT that might come from non-male minds"

LBGT community and amanfrommars, step up!

"I do not hesitate to say that having an ICT workforce more representative of humanity must result in technology which is more humane"

Please DO hesitate to say so. "Must result"? I would like to believe.

"All too often technology is imposed on us aggressively and before it is fit for purpose"

Like those Apple maps? That has more to do with market conditions than with the caring, sharing mind of wimmin. And really, the only one who "imposes" stuff is state. From others, one can run away or build a better product.

I thought she had been in the biz for 25 years?

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Re: Either El Reg selectoquoting or a goldmine of confusion

"I thought she had been in the biz for 25 years?"

She's in a very different biz now, though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Either El Reg selectoquoting or a goldmine of confusion

I remember watching a psychology documentary a while ago about the male and female brain. The male brain being more logical and aimed at abstract jobs like engineering or maths. Then they had the female brain which is more empathetic and better geared towards personal rolls like doctors or nurses.

As part of it they got a set of career professionals, both men and women, from the various 'gender set' rolls. So you had male teachers and nurses, or female engineers and builders.

On the female aligned jobs (teachers etc) both male and female scored around teh same on their tests ,and when it came to how they taught or did things again it was very similar. Likewise when you reversed it, the male minded half of the test, both men and women, had the same results with them scoring very similarly in the same areas.

I think one of the tests funnily enough was putting together a flat pack table and set of drawers. Feminine minded people went straight to the instructions, failed miserably and gave up after 10 minutes. Male minded folks ignored the instructions, laid the parts out, got straight to work and were finished damn quick.

Saying we need more women in IT is then, absurd, as the women who joined up would tend to have the similar logical brain of the male IT folks. Not only that but it isn't even us engineers who make the decisions. We get told what to do by the designers etc who funny enough, tend to lean more towards the ampathetic feminine mind.

As an example of this, at uni I did a videogames course. On the software side of it the course was entirely guys in our year, in the years after us there were one or two girls, out class was entirely boys though.

On the other side of the course, in the arts section the class was very female dominant.

Saying we should split the work so there are more women in IT is effectively spitting in the face of darwinism (extreme I know, don't take it literally) survival of the fittest dictates that those who are good at something will excel and thrive, those who are not will die out.

If we keep artifically forcing people who aren't most suited to a roll into said roll purely to fill out some bullshit statistics we're effectively cutting off darwinism, and instead of pushing the most effective people in to the positions they'll make the most positiive impact, we're moving people away from the jobs they'd be bst suited for and replacing the mwith less than stellar counterparts.

It's almost like the peter principle but starting from square one.

For those unaware, the peter principle is the process by which you start out low, and by showing extreme competence are promoted, each promotion takes you further from your core skillset and relies on skills you don't have. Basically somebody who is the best engineer you have eventually winds up an incompetent manager because he doesn't have teh skills for it, he then stays there.

The situation they're advocating is doing this from square one, take somebody less apt to the job, who would be better suited in another field, and give them a job they aren't suited to. They won't accell because they don't have the skills (until a statistic comes out and shows women are being turned up for promotion in favour of men) and the entire industry suffers.

As a final note however, i am not saying that women as a whole aren't suited to the IT industry, a lot of the women I work with are probably more competent than the men in many respects. What I am against is finding that there are more X than Y in industry Z, and making some bullshit quota to for more of Y into the industry and more of X out.

You don't see statistics poitning out the fact that there are more female workers i the housekeeping industry, (it's the only industry that ame straight to mind, sorry)

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Automatic tills?

What is the relevance of automated tills in supermarkets?

They do their jobs perfectly from what I can tell - walk up, scan your item, stick it on the output area, repeat until finished, tap pay, choose method and then insert cash or card. Done.

What else would she think a woman would do to them?

The drive for equality is a good thing (so long as equality is actually the goal) - but sometimes, people are getting lost on the way. Highlighting things like the above make the speaker here seem like a bit of an idiot IMO.

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Re: Automatic tills?

I thought that was a very sexist comment by her. Self-service tills may not be a woman's preference but as a man I think they're very useful. She seems to imply that the opinions of men are not important, or that only women go to supermarkets.

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WTF?

Re: Automatic tills?

Business people in Retail are quite likely to be women. So are the Business Analysts who would produce the requirements.

Given that, would it really have made a difference if the nerd who did the code to plumb the till into the Point Of Sale system was a lady?

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Re: Business people in Retail are quite likely to be women.

Yet we don't get politicians moaning about the lack of men in retail.

Funny that.

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Coat

Re: Automatic tills?

Judging by the assistants I see scurrying around the automated checkout area at our local Morrisons, helping people who've got stuck, using them isn't quite as straight forward as you suggest. I do realise, nonetheless, that this is the fault of the stupid customers.

Mine's the one with the items in the wrong bag.

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Re: Automatic tills?

> They do their jobs perfectly from what I can tel

WHAT?

"Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area"

I can't even be near one without wanting to kick it.

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Re: Automatic tills?

I'm not sure, but I had trouble using them at first, depending on the store - they all do basically the same thing, but differently and not as well. I think the early Sainsbury model in particular defeated me when I tried to use the "Brought my own shopping bag" routine. I also didn't understand - as I believe I now do - that the thing is basically a big weighing scale. I suppose they maybe consider that to be an important secret.

I hadn't thought before, but probably the best re-useable bag would be one that holds itself open while you pack. Are there any such on the market? (My own ideas deleted in case I get to make my fortune by inventing one.)

It would probably be simpler if they just forced you to use the shop carrier bags that are provided on the special mounting thing, even if you have your own bags. Is that a man idea or a woman idea? I'm a man, so I suppose that's the answer.

I also have a man solution to the problem of ironing clothes. It is difficult or impossible for a robot to iron a shirt in the ordinary way, and it's tiresome to do it yourself. My secret solution is that I don't iron the shirt at all. It saves so much time and nobody cares.

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Re: using them isn't quite as straight forward

It is quite straight forward. The difficulty lies in remembering how stupid the average person is, and then remembering that half the population is dumber than that. Or bloodied minded about their stupidity.

If I have a bunch of stuff I normally go to a person manned aisle. If only a few I will take the self-checkout lane. The self-checkout is slow because the computer has to check each step of the process before allowing you to continue. So you can't throw an item in the bag and scan the next one before the system has had time to register the weight of the processed item. Clerks can do that because they are the check against theft. The other day I was at the store with my female roommate. She kept trying to scan things faster than the system would register the weight and got all flustered when the "unexpected item in bagging area" alarm went off. She just couldn't cope with being faster than the computer. She is mind you, a pretty good mechanical engineer and makes more at it than I do as a help desk tech.

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Re: Automatic tills?

Nothing really wrong with self-service checkouts, except that they're as yet imperfect. Half of them claim to let you use your own bags but then make you hang around for verification if the bags aren't gossamer-light. And it's annoying to have to hang around for age verification because your shopping includes wine. The worst ones are in B&Q. They're voiced by a ratty woman who nags you if you pause for more than ten seconds between items.

But in what sense is this technology "imposed on us aggressively"? These checkouts are rarely more than 25% of the checkouts. I use them because they're fast, but if the former shadow minister for innovation doesn't like them she could always queue up at a manual checkout.

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MJI
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Re: Automatic tills?

Horrible things, tried a few.

I was recommended to use one to save queueing.

Take your item and wave it, doesn't register or you have to put it in a certain spot, next item ignored because I hadn't done something else. Look stupid piece of junk I put item in front of scanner then the next, anything else I am not interested in.

I just abandoned and queued for a human - it was quicker.

Just get stuffed automatic till, much quicker to use a checkout person, their scanners just beep and let them get on with it. You can talk to them if you want.

Argos - would not let me order an item - had to go to till so why bother.

B&Q rejected my card, normal till took it.

I make a point now of NOT using them, if I want to buy something without human interaction I will buy on line

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Re: Automatic tills?

Ok, from the mixed responses it does seem that we have a number of people who are unable to think the process through properly.

How can an automated till confirm what you've scanned is what you say you've put in the bag? Cheapest way is to go be weight. So, that explains the whole "using your own bag always flags up an issue" thing - if the bag you're using is heavy, then the till needs confirmation that you're not secretly hiding things in there to get around having to scan them. Think about it logically and it makes sense. Maybe that's too much to ask though.

I've never once had an issue with an automated till. You just do what it tells you! But people also seem to dislike doing that too - in all walks of life. Send out an email to staff telling them how to do something. If it has more than 1 step, cue the influx of people who say its too difficult.

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Re: Automatic tills?

@MJI

Absolutely agree. Tried them. Hated them. Like the personal touch of a real human. Also don't want to put anyone out of a job, even one as menial as till operator.

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Re: Automatic tills?

" from the mixed responses it does seem that we have a number of people who are unable to think the process through properly."

No, you'll find we have thought the entire process through properly and decided that these machines do not yet function well enough to be useful to us.

I am very happy for you that you always do what you are told by the machines and have not had a problem as a result - please consider this post to be a machine telling you to take your patronising attitude and bag it.

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MJI
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Re: Till operators

I would not say menial, possibly boring, but a good source of income for students and without insulting them people whose partner is the major wage earner (eg part time mums on tills.)

My wife always gets chatting with them, till staff appreciate it.

And they hate the till messages more than us!

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Anonymous Coward

If people like her keep painting a negative picture for women then why does she think women would be attracted to those roles?

Secondly, why would there be any improvement to IT just because women were there? What have women done to improve politics? Can anyone spot the difference between when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and some guy was? Was Thatcher any more compassionate than a man? Does this particular whining woman bring anything new to politics herself?

Nope and that's we're not that different so a woman going into politics will share the same qualities as a man in that they'll both be self-centred useless leeches.

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