4.6. Men, Women, and Technology
Dr. Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, found himself in hot water not long ago for making negative statements about women in science and technology. One thing he was right about is that women are underrepresented in science and technology fields. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up about 45 percent of the workforce, but represent only 13.6 percent of boards of directors running Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. They represent only 9.3 percent of boards of directors of technology companies. In 2003, women accounted for 10.4 percent of all computer hardware engineers and 7.1 percent of electrical and electronics engineers in the United States. Women hold just 9% of all CIO jobs in the U.S. They fared better as computer and information systems managers, making up 30 percent of the work force in this category, according to an article in the June 6, 2005 issue of Red Herring magazine (www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=12217). The point is that women are underrepresented in science and technology and those that are there have learned to work effectively in a predominantly male environment.
The reason we're discussing this is because you may or may not have a technology team that includes women. If you work with a cross-cultural team, you may or may not have women from other countries on your team. How you deal with men and women on your team has a lot to do with cultural norms. Understanding what is and is not appropriate in various cultures is another important aspect of your job as a manager or IT project manager. Certainly, treating everyone with respect is a great starting point, but you'll need to understand cultural differences between men and women in other countries if you have a cross-cultural team. Some of the common biases women may face on any IT team are difficulty having ideas taken seriously, lack of credit for work done and lack of choice assignments. If you're managing a team that includes women, make sure you create an environment that takes advantage of the best each person has to offer and pay special attention to cultural norms that may come into play with cross-cultural teams that include both women and men.