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Wednesday, 25 February 2015 14:24

Women in tech: IDC analyst says merit should prevail Featured

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The number of women in the technology is a concern, but IDC's ANZ research director Sally Parker still believes that they should be hired on merit.

Parker's view is the radical opposite of many women who feel — quite often rightly — that they are kept out of tech roles because of the bias towards men in the industry.

Parker (above) doesn't dispute that there may be cases where this is true but from personal experience has found that while there is an initial stage when one needs to prove oneself, after that one's presence is no longer questioned.

She has the miles behind her to prove it. She started out with DEC which was acquired by Compaq and then HP. During her first billet in a software development role in France — she studied Computer Science and French — she was doing coding for network products and high availability solutions.

"The gender balance varies from country to country and from culture to culture," she says. "In France, our engineering team had something like 30% women, which I know is a high figure for the early 90s."

In sharp contrast, when she moved to a job in Sydney in 1994, once again an engineering role, far fewer engineers were women.

And, then to offer another contrast, she pointed out that when she filled another role in Compaq/HP — competitive product marketing (still technical) — the people who were in her team were predominantly female.

"I didn't think about it much as it has rarely been an issue for me," says Parker who was in Melbourne to make a presentation at the SUSE Open Forum on Tuesday. "You may start on the backfoot but once you show that have value to add, a lot tends to change."

More recently in the US, Parker has worked with Linux vendor Red Hat and found a much greater number of female engineers in that organisation.

About the only time she has faced discrimination was actually recently when a big blue chip company initially requested a male to give a presentation at a product launch. But she took the bull by the horns and asked them why they had objections to her doing it. Finally, the issue was sorted, she did the talk and came out with flying colours.

Parker can see the humour which at times manifests itself in the lack of women in tech. "Once when I went to the Gartner data summit in Vegas, and had to go to the toilets, I noticed that unlike the normal case where is a queue at the ladies, there was no queue at all. The men, however, were standing in a long line," she laughs.

She says that increasing the number of women in the technology would be a good thing. "I'm all for a mix of skills and backgrounds. It all depends on the company's individual culture in a region. And you have to always find the right person for the role."

Parker says that very few of the women she studied with at university have stayed in the IT profession. Her partner is fully supportive of what she does but does not tolerate one thing – working on weekends!

Parker now works on cloud computing, among other things, in her role as research director at IDC. She says she has no desire to leave the technology sector.

"No, it's a really interesting time with Cloud, Big Data, Mobile and Social for Business driving fundamental changes in how we have traditionally done things," she said. "It would be terrible to leave IT. If you have a hunger for knowledge — as I do — then IT is the place to be right now."

Over her 20-plus years in IT, Parker has developed a relatively thick skin. Asked if negative comments would affect her, she responded: "Yes, both personal and professional comments would have an effect. But I guess as you grow older, you care less about personal slurs and the professional ones hit home more."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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