Do Women Feel Isolated in Tech?

Isolated Woman Working

Women comprise the minority of technology professionals – does that make them feel isolated?

Not as much as some might think, according to several female developers that we talked to. Gender, they say, can be contributing factor to a sense of loneliness that is simply part of the job. At the same time, being one of a handful of women – if not the only one – in a technical organization can make some feel apart.

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Industry Dynamics

It’s the hectic and ever-changing nature of the work itself that contributes to the sense of isolation some women coders feel, says Susan Buck, co-founder of the online community the Women’s Coding Collective. “Keeping up is a challenge, and you compound that with being one of the few women, and it can be difficult,” she observes. In addition, notes another woman, a former Web developer at Yahoo who now works at a large healthcare IT company, developers often move from team to team, which can lead to a sense of isolation as they settle in.

Indeed, this developer, who asked not to be named, saw age as a factor when it came to setting her apart. As her team members at Yahoo got younger, her sense of isolation grew. “Most of the younger guys were relatively inexperienced, not long out of college, and perhaps not used to knowing any women coders,” she says.

Still, she observes that with relatively few women working in tech, the subtle prejudice against women is a factor to confront. And it can certainly influence how women perceive their job.

Attitude Counts

Given the solitary and ever-changing nature of the work, it takes a certain kind of attitude to pursue a programmer’s or developer’s career. But women face additional pressures to forge ahead and establish themselves as strong team members. “I’ve always been a woman who has been successful in what are typically considered male roles,” says the former Yahoo developer. “And I’d like to send girls the message that it doesn’t matter if you’re the only woman working with 100 men. Learn to get along with your coworkers, and they’ll likely be more motivated to get in touch with you.”

If you are feeling isolated as a woman in tech, addressing that may take reaching outside of your company to establish a network of supportive peers, says Buck. Just because other women aren’t on your team doesn’t mean other women tech professionals aren’t nearby. “Locally, I’d start by looking on Meetup.com and seeing if there are any women-in-tech focused groups in your area,” she suggests. Eventbrite is another good place to look.

If you happen to be in an area that doesn’t have an active group of women developers, reach out through online communities and social networks. For example, the Women’s Coding Collective has a general forum where you can virtually meet other women in tech. Buck also recommends checking out the Anita Borg Institute on social media.

However you do it, “It’s important to seek out communities of women coders and developers who can serve as inspiration and a sounding board,” Buck says.

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Image: Martin Novak/Shutterstock.com

Comments

  1. BY Cicuta says:

    Women must understand that a tech profession is a loner’s profession; hence, women must do as men do…just go at it and period. In my long professional experience as an engineer I don’t recall being buddy buddy with no one and when talking with a co-worker it was about a project at hand. Women are used to mingle… is their nature contrary to men. Any woman has a small group to chat about personal things or get together; technical inclined men are usually introverted people and hence can cope with loneliness better than women.

  2. BY Shantal says:

    The work itself depends on the culture of the organization, the best performing ones often adhere to an SDLC model where there is a higher level of communication. I have found these to be environments where a team effort is somewhat stronger and the mode of work is less adversarial. When there is more communication, contributors tend to be more interested in a successful collaboration on the project and less isolated from the group. I personally developed some excellent friendships on various projects and these happened to be the ones that returned some of highest accolades.

  3. BY J says:

    I’ve been in the IT field for almost 20 years and have found in my current situation that men do not like involving women in any sort of IT decisions. They are very protective of their “turf”. This is especially true with those within a particular cultural background (I won’t elaborate). They tend to speak loud (practically yell) to try to get their point across, thinking that this will help, and prefer not to communicate important project information to women. It’s extremely frustrating and has become so bad that I’ve considered leaving the field to pursue other career paths.

    I don’t completely agree that this is a loner’s profession because you have to communicate with fellow employees, otherwise chaos ensues and everyone ends up on the “wrong page”.

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