Q:What is IT?

A: The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) defines information technology as the “study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware ( www.itaa.org )

Q: Why are women needed in computer fields?

A: Computing professionals shape our world by designing programs. Program design is improved when designers better understand users. Having designers from a diversity of gender and ethnic backgrounds will improve designs. In addition, creativity and productivity advance with a richer mix of perspectives and ideas. Moreover, computing needs all the good minds in can find [1].

Is Diversity in Computing a Moral Matter? in inroads, by Deborah G. Johnson & Keith W. Miller.

Q: A lot of IT engineers have lost their jobs. What is the future of computer occupations?

A: Based on the projection of Bureau of Labor Statistics,U.S. Department of Labor in “Occupational employment projections to 2016”, the computer occupations are expected to grow the fastest between 2006 and 2016 (see Table 3) [1]. In fact, these jobs account for 5 out of the 25 fastest growing occupations in the economy. In addition to high growth rates, these five occupations combined will add more than 644,300 new jobs to the economy [2]. Additionally, overall employment of computer network, systems, and database administrators is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, adding 286,600 new jobs over that period, much faster than the average for all occupations [3]. Employment of network and computer systems administrators is also expected to increase by 23 percent from 2008 to 2018, still much faster than the average for all occupations.

[1] “Occupations with the largest job growth”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
[2]”Fastest Growing Occupations”, America’s Career InfoNet.
[3]”Computer Network, Systems, and Database Administrators”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

Q: What kind of jobs are related to IT?

A: According to the research of CyberCareers.org, 1 out of 3 jobs in U.S. is a IT related job with an IT firm or depend on IT skills. Some related fields are listed in “IT is everywhere”, CyberCareers.

Q: How high is the salary in computer occupations?

A: Based on the employment projection news release of Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, the computer industry is the third fastest wage and salary employment growth between 2006 and 2016 (table 2 [1]). Dice’s IT Rate Survey Results provide detailed information about IT salary [2].

[1] “Industries with the fastest wage and salary employment growth, 2000-2010”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
[2] Dic’s IT Rate Survey Results.

Q: What does the projected growth in computer occupations mean for women?

A: According to 2001 Current Population Survey (CPS) data, three out of ten computer systems analysts, engineers, and scientists were women. In addition, one out of four computer programmers was a woman. As shown in Figure 1 [1], between the 2000-2010 period, 664,000 computer engineers will be added. If women continue to make up three out of ten computer systems analysts and scientists, then an estimated 219,000 more women could be employed as computer software engineers, computer scientists and systems analysts by 2010. Computer support specialists are expected to increase by 97 percent, about 490,000 workers. If women are represented in computer support specialist jobs in the same proportion as among computer programmers, one out of four, then 122,000 more women may expect to be employed as computer support specialists by 2010 [1].

[1] “Women in High-tech Jobs”, Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor.

Q: Where can I find computer occupational information about the nature of the work, working conditions, job outlook, and earnings?

A: See the Resource->Job_category in this web site -. “Occupational Outlook Handbook” , U.S. Department of Labor“.

Q: Why do some students transfer out of Computer Science in college?

A: I’ve been approached by teachers at middle and high school and professors at universities about holding on to the young women in their computer courses and programs. They want to know why young women tend to drop out of the computer curriculums much more readily than young men. Even though a lot has changed over the last 5-10 years, I think some of the reasons still include a lack of positive female role models – women who are very successful computer scientists, programmers, even technology entrepreneurs. Open any technology publication, read any book about computers, even look at the newspaper in the technology and business sections. You rarely see a female face or hear a female voice. When a young woman enters a computer program, chances are she is a minority. If she doesn’t have a strong network supporting her, she may begin to feel isolated. Without peers who can relate to all the issues she is facing – including the issue of gender differences – she may feel that dropping out is much easier than putting up with the challenges. A strong mentoring program in any college can help reduce dropout rate. Pair her up with a smart, savvy woman who has a successful career with computers and she now has a role model and network rolled into one!

Responder: Aliza Sherman, Founder, Cybergirl, Inc.

Q: Are computer related classes difficult? Do you have to pull a lot of all-nighters for projects and tests?

A: Computer related classes vary in difficulty depending on the student’s strengths. Some courses have more programming; some have more theory; some have more writing. As you get progress in the major, you certainly work on more difficult problems. And sometimes a programming project does take a long time to complete. But in talking to my students, the ones who “pull a lot of all-nighters” are the students who either like to do that or who wait a bit too long to start their project or a combination of the two. I also know students who have completed their degrees without having to pull any all-nighters. So it is possible. On the other hand, they can be fun now and then!

Responder: Joan Francioni, Professor and Chair, Computer Science Dept., Winona State University

Q: Do all IT careers involve working in isolation and in small cubicles for long hours?

A: I’m sure there must be some IT jobs that require working alone in small cubicles for long hours but not any of the ones that I know. The ones I know work in teams, usually of 4 – 6 people. They spend their work days doing a combination of things: discussing the software design, talking to clients, helping people learn to use the software, writing software, playing various games (ultimate and foosball seem to be particularly popular), eating and talking. The only one of these things that they do alone is write software … and sometimes they even do that in pairs. They work 7-8 hours a day and almost never work on weekends. They love being at work because of the people they work with and how much fun they have.

Responder: Maria Klawe, ACM President, Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton University

A: No, in fact sometimes I wish I could have a day of just sitting in my office and not being bombarded by other people 🙂 (I don’t work in a cubicle, but I am a woman working for one of the larger computer companies). My life is full of interactions with other people. I do know some engineers who work by themselves, but it is a matter of choice. Software engineering is a thought intensive activity. Think of doing a long math or physics problem — when you are in the middle of it, you don’t want to be interupted, because if you lose your train of thought, it will take you a long time to get back to where you are. So at those times, we really “want to be alone”. But that’s a small part of my job (I think the statistics are that the average engineer spends 25% of their time coding.) The rest of the time is collaborating with other engineers and non-engineers, because the projects we work on require a lot of people and our work overlaps. The people who only sit in their cubicles or offices and aren’t very good at working with others (especially if they are surly or superior acting), don’t get ahead in this field. Getting ahead comes from having your ideas adopted, and if other people don’t know what your ideas are, and aren’t convinced they are good ones, it doesn’t happen. My guess is that engineers spend more time with other people than, say, doctors do (if you don’t count patients — you can’t have a conversation about the movie you saw last night with a patient, at least not if you are being paid by an HMO).

Responder: Robin Jeffries, Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer

A: I think the tendency for programmers and companies that have large numbers of programmers is to create an isolating environment to prevent distractions and interruptions. But any programmer should take it upon themselves to create the environment that makes them feel most comfortable. And companies should create time and opportunity for socializing, for healthy breaks, for activities that bring their programmers “back to Earth.”

Responder: Aliza Sherman, Founder, Cybergrrl, Inc.

A: One of the exciting new developments in programming is called Extreme Programming, including a concept called Pair Programming. Teams of programmers work with the client/customer to develop the product specifications, and then the programmers work together in pairs (called Pair Programming), often shifting pairs as different issues arise, to increase productivity and reduce bugginess of code. A recent outgrowth of this style of programming is called a “sprint”, in which a certain goal is set, and a group of volunteer (usually) programmers work together for several (generally 3-5 days) to achieve it. Social aspects (lunches, barbecues, sightseeing, etc) are included in the agenda. It’s fun to watch two designers walk back in from lunching together to announce to the group that they’ve come up with a radically new way of approaching the problem.

Responder: Anna Ravenscroft, Python programmer and freelance technical editor

Q: What kind of pre-college experience should I have?

A: Extensive computer experience is not necessary, but good math and science background is very important.

Responder: Anne Condon, Professor, Department of CS, University of British Columbia

A: Before college, make sure you have a computer at home, even if it means saving for months or buying a used one. Unless you are using a computer frequently (constantly), you do get rusty. Join a computer club or, better yet, start one of your own, particularly a girl-only club for both fun and for helpful support. Try to meet successful women in computing. Write letters, send emails, visit offices – whatever you can do to get advice and gain support for your interests. Take an internship with a technology company and even try to target a woman-owned tech company. Do your research, do your homework and don’t give up!

Responder: Aliza Sherman, Founder, Cybergrrl, Inc.

Q: How do women with computer occupations balance their careers and home life?

A: This is a challenge for many parents, no matter what field they are in. In the computer field, it can be easier than in many other fields, because of the possibility for flexible work hours and also for working from home. As a professor, I work hard, but can work early in the morning, be home to get my kids off to school, and back home most evenings to be with my family. My husband is a webmaster who works mostly from home, so he is there when my daughter gets home from school. Together, we have more flexibility than most any other career I can think of. And because our field pays well, we can afford high quality child care for the times when we are not with our children.

Responder: Anne Condon, Professor, Department of CS, University of British Columbia

A: The irony of working with computers and the Internet is that there is a blurring line between work and home because, with a computer at home, you can still do programming, check emails, go on the Web – all the things you are also doing at work. Knowing when to turn off the computer at home is a big challenge. While computers seem to make everything we do seem more efficient, the illusion soon fades when we find ourselves on the computer nearly 24 hours a day. We all have challenges balancing work and life. The key is to have the discipline not to sit in front of the computer at home or to allot only a small amount of time to the computer once you have left the office.

Responder: Aliza Sherman, Founder, Cybergrrl, Inc.