Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Where are all the women?

This post is inspired by Echidne's on the problem of having so few women in positions of power (related to the Harriet Miers nomination).

Over the next week, my department will lose two women: one is retiring; one is quitting. That means in one division, we're down to one woman and in another, zero. I'm the only woman in my office. There are 24 people on staff, and right now, 9 of them are women (that includes a secretary and an intern). We'll be down to 7. Both of the open positions are highly technical, decreasing the likelihood of hiring a woman (we just don't get that many applications from women-see Echidne's post). If we don't hire women, the percentage of women in our department will be 25% (26 actually, but who's splitting hairs).

I find it especially disheartening that at least 50% of the department aren't women because we're at a women's college. I know some of the students never notice, but I bet the ones that work for us do. We do have a female director. My boss, the head of computing, is a woman. But at the middle levels of management (and don't even get me started about how screwed up our structure is), there are no women.

My coworkers, when I bring this up, will point out that nearly all the secretaries are women. Maybe they're discriminating against men, they say. This usually sends me into a tailspin which means they're saying this to get my goat. Curse you, coworkers!

Still, I think it's a problem. And it's not a problem with my department, per se. As I said, we don't get many applications from women. Either, there are fewer women with the skills we are asking for, or fewer women think to apply, or they're so sought after they have awesome jobs elsewhere. The thing is, in terms of a technical job, these positions are great for women, especially those with families or other personal obligations. The stress level is pretty low; there's lots of time off and the atmosphere is such that you get a lot of support. And yet . . .

I probably won't be on the search committees for either of these searches, but I'll be watching them closely. I like the guys I work with, one of whom actually indulges all of my talk about shoes, but it really is nice to have some more women around. And I think our department would benefit from a broader perspective.