You don’t have to go very far to see the extent to which women are underrepresented in the IT industry - especially as software developers. Recently, I’ve started to ponder the reasons why - and, to quote Walt Kelly: We have met the enemy, and he is us

At TechEd 2009 in New Zealand, one of the industry vendors exhibiting on the floor decided that the best and most appropriate way to entice people to attend their stand was to hire a team of booth babes to walk around the conference centre. For the duration of the event, pairs of beautiful young women wandered around, wearing undersized uniforms emblazoned “Follow me to [vendor]”

The reactions of my fellow TechEd geeks were, in my mind, a little disappointing. Many didn’t see a problem, and most were content to enjoy the “eye candy” being paraded before them. To their credit, a few did comment on the lack of matching booth boy eye candy.

In the December 2009 issue of the Communications of the ACM, Mark Guzdial comments:

It’s easy to pick the “best and brightest” who look like us, act like us, and learn like us. The challenge is to identify the students who are even brighter and better than us, but don’t look like us, act like us, or learn like us.

Mark’s comment has set me to thinking - without intending to do so, has the software development industry become a kind of worldwide Boys Club? Are we failing to hire women onto our teams, women who are better than us, just because they’re different? I suspect the answer might be “yes”.


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January 2010