Recently I went to the 10th Anniversary Celebration event of ewit – Empowerment of Women in IT, in my city – Chennai, India. The theme this year was, “Gender Equal – The workplace of the future”. Here is my blog post on my lifestyle blog summarizing the events of the day. In this post, I will list out some points gathered there on why women drop out of IT jobs.
Note: Some points mentioned below may not be applicable to all countries/everyone.
1. Women get Married/Have Kids: While the panelists noted that the ratio of men:women is almost equal at entry-level positions, many women drop out of jobs when they get married, or more prominently, when they have kids. Mostly women are expected to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of a family. A good support structure (family or professional) can help reduce dropout rates due to this reason.
2. Stereotyping: It is common to find stereotyping that some types of jobs can be done only by men. I feel this is a myth and that depends on the type and skills possessed by a person, irrespective of the gender. Some men also may not be able to do certain jobs.
3. Working in the Nights/Extended hours of Work: It is perceived that women may find it difficult to work in the nights or for extended hours in the weekends, etc. But work is work and if men can do it, so can women. It may become difficult in some cases like when they have little kids, etc. but that can be sorted if the support system is in place.
4. Frequent Travel: Nowadays most places have become accessible, unless it is a remote location in the desert/village, etc. If a man can travel to those locations alone, so can a woman.
5. Returning back to Career: Let’s say a woman has taken a break for 3-4 years. By the time she comes back, her colleagues would have all progressed in their career. This is an inconvenient position to be, hence organizations could look at providing fast-track career advancement options in such cases.
6. Harassment: While every country has laws to thwart sexual harassment, not all cases are reported. Some — due to the powerful roles of certain offenders — choose to just drop off and start afresh elsewhere. I think a company wouldn’t want to lose employees for this reason, hence should implement strict policies to make the offenders accountable for their actions. At the same time, false allegations should also not be encouraged. So a thorough investigation into the issue is required.
7. Equal Sharing of Responsibilities: Taking care of a family should ideally be the responsibility of both the partners. But in some countries, women are expected to shoulder family responsibilities, in addition to work responsibilities. Men don’t even get paternity leave! This should change, both on a cultural and organizational level, to enable equal sharing of responsibilities.
8. Women can’t handle topmost positions: While women are in the topmost positions like CEO, Board of Directors, etc. their numbers are less, even internationally. There is a perception (societal and self-inflicted) that women cannot handle topmost positions. This, I think, is a myth because handling management responsibilities depend on the type of personality and their skills, than any gender.
9. Women are not technically savvy: Another myth, because being technically savvy or otherwise, depends on the person and the training they have received. It is common even today (in some countries) to ignore giving proper education/exposure for girls, while boys get preferential treatment. This should change.
10. Organizational Politics: Everyone faces this – men and women. While men prefer to have their own ways of networking and handling politics, women also may prefer to deal with it in their own style. If the ratio of women in an organization increases, this should not be an issue. Until then, developing a better understanding of how things work with the opposite gender might help, esp. in male dominated hierarchies, is what panel members felt.
You can add more arguments, views and your experiences in the comments section below.