Women in IT don't need to be manly

CEO and founder of GeekIT Mary Henderson says women shouldn't act like men to be accepted in the IT industry.

CEO and founder of GeekIT Mary Henderson says women shouldn't act like men to be accepted in the IT industry.

Mary Henderson

Mary Henderson (Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

At the Women in IT lunch at Microsoft's Tech.Ed conference on the Gold Coast today, Henderson said that often women were encouraged to be more masculine to fit in with the male-dominated IT industry, but added that she has tried to move away from that.

"I've tried to maintain my femininity and being really true to myself, and if I don't know something, I don't know something," she said. "I don't feel like I have to act like a man to be accepted."

In looking at challenges she had faced as being a woman in IT, Henderson recalled a meeting with an IT security company's CIO.

"We had lunch and we sat down and the first thing that came out of his mouth was 'You know Mary, your biggest downfall is that you're a female in IT'," she said. "I didn't say anything because in that moment I thought 'No, it's not. I'm so lucky to be a woman in IT, I can sit in a boardroom and be myself'."

Henderson said that avenues of opportunity for women to enter the industry through non-programming or developer fields such as marketing or finance were increasing as the IT sector grows.

"In the IT industry, there's no such thing as an expert. Especially with crowd-sourcing and other online possibilities," she said. "Somebody said to me that an expert is not somebody being a great programmer, an expert is a digital interpreter and isn't that what we as women do really well? We're brilliant interpreters."

"The expert has shifted from knowledge-base to really trying to extract information, gather information and most importantly interpret information."

The Women in IT lunch celebrated women in the IT industry, with awards given out to women at the conference who had worked to improve the accessibility of employment or education within the industry for women.

Josh Taylor is attending Tech.Ed 2010 as a guest of Microsoft Australia


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