Career Watch

Q&A: Marla Ozarowski

Women in Technology (WIT) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the professional development of women in IT. Its biggest committee, Girls in Technology, supports academic and community programs that engage girls in technology- and computer-related learning.

Marla Ozarowski, whose day job is director of technology adoption in the IT organization at Freddie Mac, chairs the program, which she has built into the most active at WIT. She talked with Computerworld's Kathleen Melymuka about her work with girls.

Why is it still difficult to generate interest in IT among girls? Kids use computers every day, as a social tool with IM and e-mail and as a homework tool with search engines and research sites. Computers are basically a means to an end. However, there's a stigma attached to the technology behind computers. Girls show equal aptitude and interest in math and technology in the elementary grades, but starting in middle school, social factors begin to interfere. They view IT as "nerdy." Plus, for reasons not well understood, girls begin to question their abilities in technology-related areas. They seem to become socialized that computers, like cars and machinery, are "guy things".

What are you doing to change things? Our Girls in Technology outreach initiatives tackle these challenges head-on. In the elementary and middle school grades, we support after-school technology programs where girls learn about IT through fun and challenging hands-on activities. At the high school level, we offer programs that include successful women in the IT field who act as mentors and role models, demonstrating that IT is "cool" and a way to for girls to become independent and self-sufficient women.

Marla Ozarowski, chairman of Women in Technology (WIT)
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Marla Ozarowski, chairman of Women in Technology (WIT)
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Are there certain IT career paths or IT skills that are particularly attractive to girls? For girls who are creative and artistic, Web development and graphic design may be of interest. But in general, all areas of technology can be attractive when positioned properly. What I tell girls, including my own daughters, is that no matter what their personal and career interests might be, they need to develop a sound understanding of, and appreciation for, computers and IT, because computers will touch every aspect of their lives.

Has the recent economic downturn and all the news about outsourcing and offshoring made your challenge tougher? Though young people are clearly concerned with the economy and availability of jobs in the future, they believe that they can be anything they want. The trick is to get them hooked on IT early and develop a sense of the many doors that IT will open for them in the future.

IT Exodus?

According to the 2004 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide, an annual report released by Meta Group Inc., 24% of the more than 650 companies surveyed indicated that IT professionals in the application development field were the most difficult to retain. Respondents also indicated high turnover among employees who specialize in security (13%) and those who hold networking job functions (13%).

IT staff salaries will increase by as much as 10% to 15% over the next three years, according to Meta researchers. As the economy improves over the next year, key IT employees will seek greener pastures with competitive employers, analysts say. To prevent a mass exodus of highly valued employees, CIOs will need to pay closer attention to their human capital management programs, including development, welfare and morale, recruiting and retention, and compensatory strategies such as performance-based incentives.

"The 'grass is greener' mentality must be dealt with head-on," says Maria Schafer, a Meta analyst. Meta suggests that IT organizations devise innovative retention strategies, such as providing more flexible work rules (e.g., job sharing and teleworking).

"As the economy heats up, so does the desire and incentive to seek higher-paying work and greater development opportunities," says Schafer. "CIOs must tackle this issue immediately, using a variety of tools to compete with competitor firms, or face a real workforce crisis in the months to come."

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Less Is Worse

Contrary to what some people believe, employees who have too little work are actually less satisfied with their jobs than those who are burdened with too much work, according to a study by Purchase, N.Y.-based Sirota Consulting LLC, specialists in attitude research. The most satisfied employees in the survey were those who said they have just the right amount of work. They rated their overall job satisfaction at a 73 on a 100-point scale. Those with the second-highest satisfaction were those who have “too much work.” The least satisfied were those who have “much too little work.” The study included more than 800,000 employees at 61 organizations worldwide. Seventy-five percent have operations in North America, 11% in Europe and 14% in Asia.

JOB SATISFACTION RATING
Workload is “about right”
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73
“Too much work”
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57
“Too little work”
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49
“Much too much work”
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42
“Much too little work”
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32
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Better Than Expected

CIOs expect a modest uptick in IT hiring in this year’s first quarter, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report. Eleven percent of executives polled said they plan to add IT staff early in the year, and 2% anticipate cutbacks. The net 9% hiring increase is up three percentage points from the previous quarter’s forecast and six percentage points ahead of the year-ago projection.

IT HIRING PROJECTIONS FOR FIRST QUARTER 2005 INCREASE DECREASE
U.S. 11% 2%
New England 5% 5%
Middle Atlantic 8% 3%
South Atlantic 10% 3%
Eastern North Central 11% 2%
Western North Central 9% 2%
Eastern South Central 8% 2%
Western South Central 12% 1%
Mountain 10% 2%
Pacific 18% 3%

FASTEST GROWING

Networking
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20%
Information security
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13%
User support
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11%

MOST SOUGHT

Microsoft Windows (NT/2000/XP) administration
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46%
Check Point firewall administration
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15%
Wireless network management
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15%
SQL Server management
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13%
Cisco network administration
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13%

Note: Multiple answers permitted

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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