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Sunday, 2 April 2017

I think we really do need women in IT...

Back in November 2016, I went to a HumanOps meetup. Unlike the average IT Ops meetup, this one focused on the human aspects of running IT services. Speakers covered topics including the hiring process at Facebook's production engineering teams, the effects of unwritten office rules and the value of talking about your incidents.
I really enjoyed it but I noticed the high proportion of female attendants, perhaps up to 15%. In a gathering about IT, less than 1% is a more typical ratio. So what was different about this event? I asked
one of the female organisers. She wasn't sure why - she asked a colleague who suggested it might be something to do with marketing. A female attendant, who confessed she doesn't really attend IT meetups, said she came because "it just seemed interesting". I think what drew them is the same thing that drew me. I went there to learn more about the non-technical challenges of the business. Providing IT services involves technology, processes and people, but as an industry, we tend to focus on technology most of the time. So even if we succeed in our typical objectives, we still won't be as good as we can be because we're focussing on one side of the problem.

I think that an event like HumanOps shows that if we present the business of IT service management from a different perspective, it will attract a different set of people with an interest in solving those problems. So we need women not just for the sake of equality, but because there are diverse problems in IT so we need a diverse workforce.

As I write this I realise that simply hiring more women would not necessarily make things better. There is the danger of hiring a range of talent, only to shoehorn them into regime where those talents cannot be expressed, turning them into factory workers on a production line. If an organisation really wants to be the best they can be, then they will need a diverse workforce (which must include women), and they will need to re-evaluate how they look at the challenges of managing IT services.