Bad project management leads to sex discrimination

Research shows women face inequality in high tech firms

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New research suggests that technically oriented women could face gender discrimination in their jobs at high-tech firms in part because of mismanaged projects.

Tech firms rely excessively on a "hero mindset" to save runaway coding projects that are poorly organised, and employees with family responsibilities, often women, are sacrificed as a result, according to the report.

"The Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Technical Women: Breaking Barriers to Cultural Change in Corporations" was published by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, a nonprofit organisation that focuses on the role of women at high-tech firms.

There's also evidence of bias against women in recruitment and job assignment in places where high-tech corporate cultures thrive on this "hero mindset" that "rewards a 'last minute' crunch where 24/7 work becomes necessary to 'save' a project, failing to acknowledge family responsibilities and flexibility needs," the report says.

This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants workaday world represents a pattern that's grown mainly because an organisation "poorly defines requirements and project management."

Silicon Valley's sometimes frantic firefighting pace and in-your-face communications style produce many technical cultures that "leave women feeling isolated and crushed," according to the report.

The report reflects what 59 senior business and technical managers, both men and women, confided in a closed forum organised last October by the Palo Alto-based Anita Borg Institute. The participants came from companies including Cisco, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Symantec.

The report says it's common in the high-tech world to find the modern equivalent of the "good old boys network" that tends to hire "people who are like them."

Technical women these days are "still a rarity," says the report's author Dr. Carolyn Simard. She notes women in the United States earn just 18% of college computer science degrees, which is sharply down from the 37% level tracked in 1985. However, the need for technical demand is expected to grow by as much as 32% by 2018.

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