In the March issue of Windows IT Pro, we published a letter from reader Nicole Leonoff. Nicole wrote, "I think IT needs more women simply because we're wired differently from men. We solve problems and prioritize differently. We listen differently. We don't alway think technical first and person second and can understand that sometimes a problem isn't really a problem so much as just a lack of understanding." We recently received a letter from a female IT pro in agreement with Nicole's letter. Francois from Quebec wrote, "Nicole, you are absolutely right! Women solve problems and prioritize differently from men when coming to the client desk for assistance. At least, this is what I see every day in my small four-people computer support shop providing support to about 250 clients. As you say, the woman on my team does not think technical first, even if she is very technically competent. She insists on client perception and understanding while providing the necessary technical assistance, and this kind of approach is very appreciated by some of our clients. Some clients prefer to wait for her availability instead of getting more rapid assistance from one of our three 'guys.' I like the 'alternative perspective,' and so do our clients!"
The "person-centric" approach to technology that women bring to the practice of IT represents a 180-degree shift from the more traditional "machine-centric" approach. I think it's also a clue to the puzzle of why more women aren't attracted to careers in IT. Our culture seems so often to be overdazzled by the wonders of technology--it's almost as if we believe technology springs into existence by itself and exists as a separate life form. But humans create technology--it's a tool that doesn't have an existence apart from us and should exist to serve (hopefully, for the good). To place the tool back into the toolmakers' hands seems to me an incredible benefit that women can bring to IT, as the letters I've quoted describe. I wonder how many more talented people, women and men, might be attracted to working in IT if they realized that it can be a "people" profession.