The “Men Write Code from Mars, Women Write More Helpful Code from Venus” posting in the Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog on June 6 produced very lively discussion. The post discusses the insights of Emma McGrattan, the senior vice-president of engineering for Ingres who is one of Silicon Valley’s highest-ranking female programmers. She basically says that women document their code versus men who not only do not document their code but often “…try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code. They try to obfuscate things in the code…” Emma is on a mission on a mission to get more women interested in computer-programming careers but she says “it’s proving very challenging.”
I am not touching the issue of men versus women in programming, follow the link for that discussion. The question that I have is does this impact IT and business communication and interaction? I initially raised the issues on IT and business interaction in the following articles but deal with it on a regular basis while consulting, training or writing.
· “IT is from Mars, Business users are from Venus”, SearchCRM.com, 30 June 2005
· “Business Intelligence Goes Back to the Future, Part 2: Couples Therapy for IT and Business Users”, DM Review, August 11, 2005
IT along with engineering, math and science oriented college studies are still populated by primarily by men. When received my undergraduate degree my engineering university was 90% male while now is has only(!) 65% enrolments by men. [When I mentioned this to my teenage son he said why would anyone, meaning a guy, go to a university with a 2-to-1 male to female ratio? Thanks, son.] Unfortunately, girls are turned off by or diverted by math and science before they even get to high school. But since the business people that IT works with are often also primarily male this does not explain the interaction problems.
Maybe it is not the male versus female aspect of IT but rather the geek thing! After girls are diverted from math/science in elementary & middle school, it’s in high school where peer pressure, poor curriculum and parental advice steers kids (male and female) away from math/science. First, it’s a geek thing. Only nerds like math and science all your buddies say. And the nerds are socially awkward and stick together on the math club or debate team. [We are taking about my youth here] Second, high school math/science curriculum stinks in the US. Could educators make these subjects any more boring and unrelated to the real world? [A shame] If the peer pressure doesn’t turn you off the boring classes certainly will. Finally, parents and the news media keep telling kids that there are no jobs in IT or all the jobs are going offshore. Computer science enrolments have been declining for years.
There are two factors from the high school experience that do impact IT and business relationships. First, many people in IT would rather spend their day working with technology and other people who are technically oriented. They might not interact well with business people because they have difficulty relating to people who do not understand technology or discussing business issues. Or maybe business people still view IT as geeks!
Second, an increasing portion of the IT workforce is foreign. [Math and science is more respected overseas?!] Without debating the offshore, H1-B or immigration issues, it is a fact of life that many US-based IT shops are increasingly percentage of their workforce being foreign-born workers. These cultural differences do impact IT and business interaction just as every immigration wave has impacted people’s interaction in the past.
IT is still from Mars and business people are from Venus.
ps: Athena (picture) is the goddess of wisdom (and war)