The Shrinking Female IT Workforce

Women in mid-management are leaving IT at an alarming rate. The tough economy may be a help -- or a hindrance -- in keeping them.

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Women in the Middle

Some women in midlevel IT management say the lifestyle suits them just fine.

Lorraine Spencer doesn't plan on leaving her middle-management IT position at Johns Hopkins University anytime soon -- even though there's a salary freeze and staffers aren't getting bonuses. At the Office of Continuing Medical Education, Spencer has found a perfect niche for her lifestyle and some benefits beyond bonuses. She enjoys a 37.5-hour workweek and has opportunities to move into different IT positions within the university.

"Universities are fabulous places to work for women," Spencer says. "I intentionally came here because it's a better work-life balance. There seem to be more opportunities for advancement for women. Our CIO is a woman."

What's more, the university will pay half of her son's tuition at any U.S. college or university -- a perk offered to anyone who has worked there more than two years.

Filling the Pool

Ashcraft worries about the future of innovation if the pool of women in technology should continue to decline.

"It isn't just about equity and fairness, though that's important, too," she says. "But it's also about the harm it does to innovation to have one relatively similar group of people designing the new technologies that are being consumed by a diverse range of people. To the extent that the talent pool becomes more similar, that creative innovation is at risk."

Companies are making strides toward closing the gap on women's pay and opportunities every day. Google, for example, has joined the CWLP to develop policies for employees with children.

"A lot more companies are making this commitment and designing programs to help women," Sherbin says. "We hope it's a very positive outlook."

Collett is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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