back to article Ladies put off tech careers by sci-fi posters, Coke cans

There's more research out this week on the vexed question of why there aren't more women in the field of computing and IT. According to the latest study, such seemingly harmless habits as putting up sci-fi posters or leaving cans of Coke about can be much more offputting than one might think. "When people think of computer …


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  1. Yorkshirepudding

    the IT crowd

    if my office was anything like the basement of reynolds Industries id be a much happier IT bod

  2. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    I have a massive poster of James T Kirk behind me

    although I've never watched Star Trek. I just like keeping people out of my IT cave :) I even have a pyramid of coke cans. This article could have been written about me.

    IT geeks are antisocial, shock horror news at ten.

    The HR office has pink fluffy pens and other girly tat, should I complain that it's too feminine? No, because it makes them happy.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    would love an artsy room

    truth be told, way to often IT rooms are either empty (maybe a couple of wallcalendars) or having too many motivational posters.

    I would love to have something artsy on the walls, like for instance grafitti and airbrush abstract models.

  4. Steve Swann

    We showed a female only group...

    ...around the set for the "IT Crowd" and then a real IT environment in a modern business before asking which they would rather work in.....

    I've been in IT for over 20 years and I've *NEVER* seen a working environment as the one described by this student psychologist. They are the staple of sterotypical thinking, and that folks, is as bad as saying "All women are bad drivers". It is no more true than "All techies are saddos/geeks/anaraks..." etc. etc.

    Various organisations, including those dedicated to so-called feminism have been battling for years to shed such lables, so I find it somewhat suprising when someone else comes along, and in the name of equality, tries to re-establish the same pigeon-hole categories.

    Stop it.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    What utter crap.

    As I type this, there are four cans of a certain habit forming liquid substance on my desk in various states of either unopened, being drunk or have given their lives so that I may continue with my work in full flow. **burp**

    In this particular IT office there are six females and four, very broad-minded males. (they have to be, simply to survive!!!) And ... no ... put that CV down as there are presently no vacancies. Just put it this way; when you consider this amount of PMT in one location, at one time ... you want to be ANYWHERE but here.

    1. Brutus

      he he

      did you ever get your gun licence?

      back on topic: that's a very odd M/F ratio. Is your work space pastel with Mopnet prints all around?

  6. Asgard

    Real social influences and failed researcher logic...

    People who are not interested in the subject of IT are already primed to dislike that subject. Therefore if you put them in a poorer environment, they are going to be even more disgruntled when asked about a subject they already dislike, but its not the environment that is causing their dislike of the subject of IT!

    So sales pitching the IT stereotype as the reason for people disliking the subject, is simply a poor attempt to draw attention to this flawed research.

    Also their research misses obvious social influences. For example lets face it, there are some in society who simply wish to make derogatory comments about IT. This is shown for example by the derogatory labels such as geek and nurd. (I know some try to embrace these labels as good, but its still often used in a derogatory way).

    The question then becomes, why do some in society feel the need to verbally hit out with derogatory geek like comments about IT. (The point is, what do they get out of using derogatory comments?). The answer is its a common behaviour of Histrionic Personality Disordered people. Histrionic people seek attention and so almost by definition, the act of seeking to become the centre of attention, is also to seek to deprive others of attention. Most people in IT have at some point in their lives experienced being verbally put down by Histrionic people. The reason this is important, in the context of this discussion on women in IT is the fact that the majority of women are more influenced than men in their daily lives by Histrionic people. For example the entire fashion industry is totally dominated by Histrionic people. The majority of women are relentlessly influenced to conform to the expectations of this industry. (In the fashion industry we again see this same pattern of derogatory comments, where people are berated for being unfashionable and so therefore the Histrionic repeats the pattern of putting down others whilst trying to show themselves as central and leading. Its a manipulation of people, centred around the need for attention. The majority of women are relentlessly under this influence, so is it any wonder that many of them try to avoid association with anything so relentlessly put down by the Histrionic people.

    (A person knowledgeable on a subject and starting to speak about their subject of interest is enough for a Histrionic person to seek to put down that person and thereby removing the attention from the knowledgeable person and back onto them. After years of practice Histrionic people get very good at manipulative and subtlety derogatory comments. Subjects such as IT and science are inherently domains that require years of study and as such more likely to be targeted by Histrionic people).

    Histrionic's influence on society is considerable because they seek jobs that give them attention. Turn on a TV and its an almost endless stream of Histrionic people. The whole main stream (superficial) side of the media industry is dominated by Histrionic people. e.g. Celebrity news, singers, actresses, fashion etc.. (Even many of the reporters in these superficial areas of the media industry are Histrionic as they seek attention through their work and they seek to be a part of that world of attention and they seek to hold up Histrionic people as role models).

    Therefore its hardly surprising with such Histrionic social influences that fewer women would want to be associated with IT. This is why the women who are in IT and science often show a self confidence to not be so influenced by the superficial concerns of the Histrionics.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i was confused initially

    As there are far more women in IT where I work (UK company), however, there is a pretty solid divide.

    The majority of Women fall into the Business/systems Analysis roles, and the majority of the men fall into development/Architecture.

    In my specific team the developers are a 50:50 split, but the guys are definately more technically inclined, although some do completely through the stereotype (geeky female COBOL developer, who is really young and attractive)

    Just generalisations, but given the size of the IT department here, thousands of people, it's a pretty good one.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Their - belonging to a person of unspecified gender. i.e. that PC is theirs

    Their is singular in your first introduction of the word, and then takes on plurality by the end. This somewhat invalidates your i.e., and undermines your argument a little. But, don't let that stop you on your crusade for better grammar, or grandpa: ACs are not sexist.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Untitled pedantry

      "Their is singular in your first introduction of the word, and then takes on plurality by the end. This somewhat invalidates your i.e., and undermines your argument a little."

      Plural? So yours is the plural form of your, too? A your, two yours? A her, two hers? That's one more subtlety of ye olde Queen's English I was not aware of. Damn, they were right, you never stop learning.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whose reality is it anyway?

    I'm a bit puzzled by reports of this mythical workplace of coke cans, sci-fi posters and smelly nerds: every IT department I've worked in has been a pretty normal office, not this strange parallel universe presumably also inhabited by wackos like Guardianistas and Daily Wail readers.

    If women don't want to work in IT, it's more likely to be because of the crap people management practices that are endemic in the industry. More fool the men for putting up with it.

  10. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    "Sci-Fi Posters" vs "Nature and Arts"

    I'm sure the average geek also posses a number of "artistic" posters, each more "natural" than the others. Not sure if putting them up on the wall instead of under the bed would appeal to ladies though.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ah the job went to the dogs when we were barred from having the line-printer version of the topless women pinned on the walls.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the direction of Asgard

    2010 - The year we take back what is ours :)

  13. Nusato

    BITE ME (pointless angry rant follows)

    You don't like my bookshelves filled with Shadowrun books side by side with the OOO programming books? Then have a hearty "F**K YOU" and stay out of IT.

    I didn't get a job in IT so that I could spend all f**king day listening to a pack of wild bitches talk about their damn hair. I got a job in IT so that I could have some connection with my co-workers, however tenuous (freaking WoW players, ENOUGH! Play a real RPG!). I have nothing in common with the backwater dimwits who want "nature" pictures on the wall and I don't want to.

    Also? I drink Pepsi. Regularly. And I have enough confidence in myself and my abilities not to need artificial reinforcement from a stupid motivational poster in the workplace. Of all the garbage research into "women" in IT this is the kind of thing that makes my blood boil. The reason those soft-skinned limp-wristed bitches don't work in IT is because they aren't any good at math, or science, or any kind of logical thinking. They don't understand computers, they want the world to be soft and fuzzy and to cuddle them.


    I DON'T WANT YOU IN MY IT DEPARTMENT. I do NOT want all the men that I've taught to respect my abilities to suddenly drop me down into the "encouraged women in IT" group. GO AWAY. When you get a pair and learn how to install a hard drive with your bare hands despite the long nails, you can come back and try again. Or if you max out your Rogue. Basically, when you prove you want to work in IT, you can come here. Otherwise, f**k off and leave me out of your stupid pathetic little enabling world. EARN IT IF YOU WANT IT.

    P.S. And stop trying to steal my romance novels. I use those plots for tabletop games.

    1. Misoriented

      A bit too far?

      It always pains me when I have to agree with somebody that does my side of an argument a disservice. As it is with Nusato. Much of what you say makes a lot of sense to me, but the way you say is somewhat less than optimal.

      Yes, a lot of IT guys are geeks. I'm a software developer, and I've been known to play some WoW and drink a carbonated beverage on occasion myself. I don't see how these things are any harm to anybody. In fact, I understand when you say that it gives me a connection to my coworkers, who often enjoy the same things.

      I'm also unclear why these "scientists" are always trying to figure out how to get more women in IT. What's the motivation there? It is really important that more women SHOULD be in IT? Who cares? It just seems like a pointless exercise. I guess when you have to "publish or die," you'll publish about anything you can think of.

      Also, this is just my experience, but the women I've worked with, in general, have not had the same level of technical abilities as men with a similar level of experience. I'm sure that's not true in other cases, but I've just never really been impressed by the female coworkers I've had. They've always seemed to be lacking something. Your mileage will most certainly vary.

      However, I'm not sure the anger is really appropriate. You seem to imply ("EARN IT IF YOU WANT IT") that women are demanding to be let into IT even though they haven't earned it. I'm not seeing that. They seem largely uninterested to me, and I agree with you that I'd rather not work with anyone that isn't interested in their job, so it's a win-win. They don't care to work with us, so we don't care to have them. Fine, we can just leave it at that.

      Have a beer. You sound like you need it. :)

  14. Int 19h

    Market glut

    While the study is interesting, the notion that we want to draw women (or anyone else) into IT is rather silly. I'm not aware of the figures for UK or Europe, but in the US there are a distinct lack of positions available for IT professionals. Unemployment periods tend to start at about six months and can go well over a year for an infrastructure geek who is between jobs.

    I'm happy enough to share my cube farm or server room or whatever with male, female, and of any race, but right now is NOT the time to be encouraging people to enter a market that presents a decided lack of jobs.

  15. John Dougald McCallum

    Piles of rubish on office desks

    If this is the scene at your desk ask your self this who sacked the cleaner?

  16. Bucky 2

    Round and round we go

    So my understanding of this study is that female non-geeks conform to stereotype X because male geeks conform to stereotype Y?

    And the conclusion is that if the men would stop conforming to stereotype, then the women would, too?


  17. TimeMaster T

    generic title

    "computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food,"

    "portrait of masculinity that it evokes"

    This has got to be the first time those sentences have ever been used together.

  18. Denarius Silver badge

    Another waste of electrons, but...

    The females I work with in IT, one tech, one wetware interface/web design, loathe "special " treatment. They just want to be accepted on thier merits.

    So why is it that non IT types insist on trying to tell everyone else on how to get more women in IT ?

    A sense it has status ??? hahahahahahahaha, never been employed by corporate droids, have they :?

  19. Goat Jam

    We had a female helpdesk tech

    She was lazy and boring as batshit*. Sat at her desk all day listening to her ipod. She wouldn't get into the spirit of things with the rest of the guys who really tried to involve her (I was a late entrant, she left a few months after I started) .

    Got some young guys to replace her and things are much more easy going now.

    The fact is, it takes a person with particular emotional/intellectual makeup to work in IT and in my 25 years I've met damn few women who make the grade. The one or two that did though, man were they awesome.

    * She did look damn good in jeans though

  20. Ammaross Danan

    @Nusato among others

    @Nusato (only for part)

    What a wonderful rant to read. Thoroughly amusing. Although there are some points I do agree with. It has been my experience that most women are simply not as interested in IT as they are in other "stereotypical" fields (I'm not listing them due to the obvious need for a fire-retardant line of fashion....). Throughout my schooling in computer-related courses, the head count was 1 (one!) female in the class. MAYBE. Similar thing for the math/science courses. Women in those courses (few as they were) were there due to a Major requirement (for medical sciences or somesuch *cough* NURSING *cough*).

    Why there is this trend has been the topic (or in this case, the side-effect observed) for many research attempts. I say attempts since they haven't really definitively PROVEN anything yet, have they? Except perhaps statistical analysis (funny ANAL is in that word...) has shown that more men are in IT than women...which is where stereotypes come from: percieved patterns in a group. If a pattern didn't exist, there wouldn't really be a stereotype for it (albeit an outdated stereotype). I'd like to see the more obvious stereotype of the "IT Geek" who has some form of caffinated beverage at hand (or recently disposed of, since we're not "slobs," as our mind-set doesn't allow it!), tasteful posters of interest (be it "natural art" that should be under the bed, an AMD/Intel poster of preference [but that's what the sticker on your PC/Mac is for...], or the sci-fi type poster [who wouldn't want the Movie poster for Core on their wall???]), and the obvious PILE OF MISC. CABLES that you have a nick-name for... These things, along with a healthy pile of computers in various states of life (newly minted and yet to be christened to being eaten by dust bunnies and other semi-solid quartermass animorphous lifeforms....) and fulfilling various roles laying about the office.

    Real IT people's offices look like someone actually does work in them. Perhaps women are too put off by the "mess" that you have no time to clean up properly before more is brought in? I know I would be [am, actually] at the very least daughted by the shear volume of work that needs to be prioritized and worked through. Maybe it's the pressure of never being "finished." At least in network admin/ support role....

  21. SisterClamp

    Letters and/or digits

    My desk is stacked with Linux distros on CD, catalogues, bottles of nail polish, USB sticks and a couple of nail files. It also contains 3 screens (2 lappies, 1 desktop, 2 of them running Linux, natch!). The rest of my home office contains another Linux lappy, an Enterprise model with light & sound effects :), an ST:TOS shuttlecraft perched on top of my polarised light lamp, books, 2 printers, blank CD/DVD spools, a digital frame that shows cool wallpapers I've collected along with pix of the family, and posters from Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting. Oh, and a 5ft aquarium. It's dark and warm. Hubby's home office is bright, spotless and airy with the obligatory 3 machines as well on his desk as well. But the rest of it is clean, sparse, less humid and more pastel-y. Also, he likes pink. We're both in IT. Gads, I love stereotypes.

  22. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Social Norms at play

    I had always assumed that it was due to social norms unconciously at play. IT is a boy's world*, and women somehow feel uncomfortable moving into it. Similarly looking after children in a creche is a woman's world* and men (as a rule) feel uncomfortable moving into it.

    That being said, our head DBA is female and a (female) neighbour is an electrical engineer.

    Does anybody have any info on the uptake rates of women in IT in other societies (say France, Japan or Russia)? I'd be interested to learn if the reasons are purely social or if something more innate is at play.

    * more accurately phrased, 'is perceived to be a'

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well said, Nusato!

    So women don't like IT, and it's the mens fault.

    We are not here to win a popularity contest. Working in IT is dealing with a steady stream of frustrations. If you are put off by coke cans or sci-fi posters, you might not be up to the rest of it anyway.

  24. JohnG

    Career choice

    People (whatever their gender) who alter their career choice based on what personal trivia their future colleagues may have around their desk probably aren't destined to get on with anyone in any workplace.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    pfff wtf is all this crap?

    posters?? Coke cans? I can't believe someone actually dropped trou and crapped on their keyboard enough to make this story.

    I've been in the job for 15 years and am sad to say the pay divide between genders is still rife in the I.T industry *THAT* is a bloody good reason why women wouldnt be interested.

  26. Alice Andretti

    Bad teachers vs good role-models etc.

    I still remember my high-school basic-electronics class, where the slimeball oldschool teacher had the class memorize colors of resistors by using a well-known traditional mnemonic jingle - this is the version that we were taught:

    "Bad Boys Rape Often Young Girls But Violet Gave Willingly"

    Not surprising that sort of attitude didn't attract girls in droves, for a variety of reasons including at least two flaws in the basic premises of the mnemonic itself. In that particular class, I was literally the only girl in a class of about 30 male students, which made me feel like a freak at first. The other students were cool (nice), just normal people, but some of the old-guard *teachers* had attitude problems and they tried to pass on their worthless/harmful attitudes to new generations. (I guess I went to bad schools, up until college anyway.)

    I stuck it out because, at the time, I liked the subject matter itself well enough to ignore traditional dumbf**k attitudes, but more sensible ;) girls stayed far away from such classes.

    Not everyone would be as motivated though - I have a bit of a stubborn streak.

    @ Asgard:

    "People who are not interested in the subject of IT are already primed to dislike that subject."

    Possibly, but it's also true that many people have never even *heard* of IT (it's not exactly a common acronym among the general populace), therefore such people would have no preconceived ideas about IT one way or the other.

    "women who are in IT and science often show a self confidence to not be so influenced by the superficial concerns of the Histrionics."

    Good points, what you wrote about Histrionics.

    My dad (who was an excessively-nice-looking guy and an extreme workaholic), always said that "Anything that's popular, is probably no damn good" (partly there he was referring to *himself* in his younger rakish years - he certainly had no lack of women's companionship before marrying at a relatively older age), and then he'd launch off into stories of lemmings and "herd mentality", complete with scathing denunciations of the fashion industry, "face-paint for primitive mating-rituals" (his term for women's makeup), recreational-drug users, draft-dodgers and "hippies", "new math" etc... he was very opinionated about some things!

    (Note that this was many years before personal computers, so his anti-lemming stories were *not* related to any modern OS-based lemming diatribes that one may have heard, y'know the usual Windows vs SomeOtherOS thing.)

    Point being, it's not surprising that a kid who's heard that sort of thing zillions of times since infancy, might end up with "non-traditional" career interests.

    I suspect that many other women in non-traditional lines of work, probably also had some similar strong influences in their lives that gave them the idea that you don't necessarily have to do what society or "peers" (lemmings again) tell you to do. Be interested in things for their own merits, not because of following fashion/style/bad-peer-pressure or whatever. If something interests you, then go for it, work hard, do a good job, be successful at it. If despite your best efforts you can't hack it (no pun intended), then find something else that you *are* good at and work hard at that too.

    Having a workaholic mentor/role-model probably has something to do with it, too, because it makes one less inclined to be discouraged at going against the tide (dealing with naysayers etc.).

    A lot of traditionally male jobs, are in fact *difficult*, either mentally or physically - that's probably one of the reasons that the pay is often higher. Many people - men as well as women - aren't well-qualified for those jobs and/or aren't interested in that kind of work (whatever it happens to be) in the first place. People (men or women) who get into those lines of work just on a lark, and who don't apply themselves or who spend their time goofing off, are apt to fail or be mediocre. If there is something 'unusual' about the person, their failure will stick in people's memory more.

    Side note:

    I once worked in an all-girl shop (quite a change of environment/culture from the usual mostly-male workplaces I'd worked at previously). The boss made an exception one time and she hired a male. He turned out to be lazy *and* a thief ($$$$) and he got fired, and ever after that, the boss swore up and down that she would never ever again hire another man because she'd hired that *one* man that *one* time and he was no good (that bosslady had good technical skills, but she wasn't very people-smart). She kept her word for the entire time she was in charge of that shop, another 4 or 5 years or so. "One bad apple"... I see similar things with regard to mostly-male workplaces that dare to hire females - some of the females are good workers, some aren't, but the bad ones stand out more because they were already different to start with, thus reinforcing already-existing stereotypes or whatever.

    Just my long-winded ramblin' two cents there :)


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