Thursday, 22 February 2007 10:37

Turing Award first no guide for women's work

Why do we get so excited when a woman wins a major IT award? Sure, any winner of the Turing Award deserves recognition, and IBM's Fran Allen has made a huge contribution to compiler technology.

But every time something like this happens (OK, so this is the first time a woman has won the Turing), it seems to be linked with a supposed 'shortage' of women entering the industry.

Frankly, I think this just proves women are more sensible than men.

What does a technical career in IT offer? Below-average starting salaries, and fairly ordinary pay rates after that. Long hours. Constant retraining, usually at your own expense and on your own time. The ongoing risk that your work will be outsourced - if the contract stays onshore you might get a job on lower wages with the outsourcer, but the chances are your work is going overseas.

Oh, you want to take a couple of years off to have kids? Good luck in getting another job after that. The half-life of your knowledge and skills is so short that most employers would much rather pick up a new graduate than give you another chance.

If you work in IT, would you really encourage your son or daughter to follow suit? Sure, there are some intellectually and financially rewarding jobs out there, but the number of entry-level positions that could lead to getting one of them is collapsing.

The funny thing is that nobody ever seems to say "we must encourage more men to enter predominantly female occupations." About the only exception I'm aware of is teaching, but it's relatively recently that male teachers have become a small minority, at least in secondary schools.

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.





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