I read with dismay and a good deal of reflection a recent article entitled “Why women quit Technology Careers” and comments posted to the article by an Anonymous (presumeably female) reader. This article caught my attention on numerous levels — the first being that somehow through my years I have become a champion for women in their jobs – be it technology or other. I’ve seen too many very capable women move on because their work was somehow devalued, considered somehow to be less than their male counterparts.
Secondly the article made some references to work-life balance. The article states that “…in tech, the average workweek is 71 hours…”. In my book this is just unacceptable – not that I haven’t done it of course! However, it still was not acceptable. I remember picking up the phrase from someone that said “…we work to live, we don’t live to work…”. I’ve always worked long hours, but I’ve also chosen work that I love to do. Enjoying one’s work in and of itself I believe provides a level of work-life balance.
That being said, I believe that in technology anyone, male or female, who leans toward a more “normal” work-life balance leaves themselves open for criticism and all too often become devalued in their workplace. For example, I remember how a worker at a vendor of mine was viewed after he took “maternity” leave to be with his wife and new baby. “Mr. Mom” lost significant respect among his fellow workers for his choice, while managing to keep his job after all the time off.
I really believe that when all is said and done the reason why tech people leave their field often has little to do with hours, but rather has to do with how they are perceived and treated in their workplace. If they feel valued, if they are not isolated, if they are trusted, if they like what they do — they stick around.