The art of the agenda survey – Case in point “Females in IT”

Mortimer Spinks (a UK recruitment agency) and Computer Weekly have set about to construct a Females in IT survey that clearly has something of an agenda.

But before you get the wrong impression, I’d just like to say one thing. The two best programmers I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with were Samantha Roxburgh and Alison (no, that’s her real name) Macro. Both of them at ICL Fujitsu.

So now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll continue.

Question 1: Are you?

  • Male
  • Female

Question 2: Are you happy that you have a career in Technology?

  • Yes
  • No

Meh not an option

Question 3: What percentage of your Technology department is female?

Which sounds like a fair question, but it’s not. For example, I’m currently working with the guys at the Environment Agency on a IT Project they’ve got to get in before financial year end (fat chance) and the head of the department here in Bristol, the head of the department in Warrington and the overall boss of IT are ALL women. But taking into account just our department, just 15% of staff are female. It’s just that they happen to be the senior staff.

Question 4: Do you believe that there should be more or less women in Technology?

  • More
  • Less
  • The Same
  • Not Sure

Always love the “Not sure” option. Especially when it comes to phone in polls on TV. Where you get a 10-15% Not sure vote. I mean who’s motivated at home to ring in and say they don’t really have an opinion?

I voted for More, there is an imbalance in IT you don’t see in administration (where there are more women than men).

Question 5: Additional comments

I resisted the urge to put something satirical in here. I’m not sure it’s the right audience.

Question 6: Do you believe women find working in Technology jobs more or less attractive than men do?

  • More attractive
  • Same
  • Less attractive

Interesting question, given administration in general is so close to system administration (given the number of helpful tools these days). But on the whole I think women are less attracted, and I have some evidence to back this up.

Question 7: If you answered ‘less attractive’, please select the reasons why (tick all that apply)

  • “Geek” / “Nerd” image makes it unattractive for women
  • Masculine / macho culture makes it difficult for women to shine
  • Technology inherently favours a ‘male’ skill set
  • Being the only female in the team puts women off
  • Working hours are less suited to women
  • Education system ingrains in woman a negative attitude to technology
  • Glass ceiling – there are less opportunities for promotion
  • Women have to work harder to succeed
  • Other, please specify

I think the image of IT work has a little to do with it. Certainly the hours (often long) don’t help. But then I’m a father, so the same applies to me also. So I don’t understand where that’s coming from. Are men not meant to care about not seeing their children? Is that the implication?

What made me laugh the most was the second option “Masculine / macho culture”…. in IT…. ARE YOU F**KING KIDDING ME!! What’s macho about pressing buttons and writing code again? As for it making it difficult for “women to shine”. When was this survey first drafted? 1955?!

The list is actually pretty sexist, to say the least. “Women had to work harder to succeed”.

As for “Education system ingrains in woman a negative attitude to technology” – wow! I went to Portsmouth University and over HALF the people on the computer science course I did were women.. OVER HALF.  So what’s happened since then?!

Question 8: Do you feel your business would benefit from having more women working in your IT/Tech teams?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

So this is a leading question, isn’t it. I mean in reality you hire staff based upon their skills and value to the organisation. But the implication in the question is that simply hiring women regardless, would be a benefit. I had to put “Don’t know” for that reason.

Question 9: If you answered ‘yes’ to the previous question, which of the following benefits do you think would come from more women in the department? (tick all that apply)

  • More creative / innovative environment
  • Technically stronger
  • More successful project delivery
  • Better organised
  • A more fun environment
  • Better liaison with the customers
  • Better departmental communication
  • Other, please specify

How sexist is this? By definition the statement is saying that men are;

  • Less creative or innovative
  • Less technically strong
  • Less likely to successfully deliver a project
  • Are less organised
  • Are less fun in the work place
  • Are poorer communicators to both customers and work colleagues

.. than women. I used option “Other, please state” to say how sexist I thought the options were.

Question 10: Do you agree with this statement?  “In the future, a career in Technology will become increasingly attractive to women”

  • Yes
  • No

Sorry… no crystal ball here.

Question 11: Additional comments

Here I put about Sam and Alison, then pointed out which questions I thought were leading the survey and how much of an agenda piece it is.

I also made mention of the fact that there was an IT recruitment drive at the EA two months ago. Guess how many female candidates we got. Guess.

NOT A SINGLE ONE. So when you’re faced with that, how the hell can you place women in the department? You can’t.

Question 12:  For women only: Have you ever felt discriminated against in your job because of your gender? Yes/No

Fair question.

Question 13: For women only: Would you recommend a career in Technology to another female? Yes/No

Surely based upon experience, but there you go, that holds water for men also. But I understand the purpose of the survey. I just don’t like the wording of the questions.

Can you imagine the reaction if this survey was for something like midwifery and the questions remained very similar. I can imagine a very, very negative reaction from female staff.

I’m don’t disagree that at the developer level, the proportion of male to female staff is heavily leaned towards men. But in the 15 years+ I’ve been working in IT I’ve NEVER heard anybody reject a CV for somebody based upon their sex. Not once and you have to bare in mind I’ve worked for dozens of organisations over the years, both large and small. So I don’t understand where this alleged sexism lies. I guess I’ve clearly just been working at the 20+ places where it NEVER occurs. Given that, I should publish a list of recommended companies for IT working women.

But that’s another post….

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