Forum looks at women's role in hi-tech industry

A MAN'S PLACE?:The conference looked at changing attitudes and what's holding back women from entering and working in what has been a male-dominated field

BY JEAN LIN  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 2

After the results of a recent survey indicated that most people questioned the role of women in technology-related industries, a joint conference on "Women in Technology" was held yesterday to address the issue.

According to the survey conducted by Cheers Magazine, more than 50 percent of people believed that Taiwan's society does not encourage technology-related education for women in general.

The poll indicated that even 28 percent of the women already working in the technology industry thought that women inherently lack an aptitude for math and science.

However, 78 percent of the women answered they did not think that people at work expected any less from them just because they were women, but agreed that it was harder for women to be promoted.

Such results, according to the magazine, are due to pressure from traditional beliefs and the lack of confidence of women themselves in technology-related areas.

Most women do not choose to study math or science because they have been influenced to think in a certain way ever since they were young, said Wu Wan-yu (吳琬瑜), chief editor of Cheers Magazine.

"How many of you women out there were given robots or toy tools to play with when you were young? And how many of your parents gave you Barbies?" Wu asked the audience at the conference co-hosted by Cheers and IBM.

"Some kids might not have a choice but to play with the Barbies given to them when their interests might be in transforming robots into airplanes," added Wu.

The deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Lin Lee-yu (林麗玉), the creator of the little green running men on crosswalk traffic lights, spoke of her scientific inclinations since childhood.

"I hated memorizing historical and geographical facts. I knew I had to study math and science, but there were only three girls in the Urban Planning Department in college, including me," said Lin.

Women do not do worse in men in technology-related areas, said Lin.

"They have to have a strong personality and ambition in order to succeed," she said.

"You have to know that there are some things you need to give up in order to obtain other things, and you need to make that sacrifice," added Lin.

The IBM Taiwan Corporation VP Wang Po-hsia (王帛霞) talked about balancing her career and family life.

"It's not easy being a working woman. It's important to have a husband who respects you and your success in the field you choose," said Wang.

"I used to do a lot of housework, but then my husband told me I was doing too much, that I should concentrate on work," she added.

Lee Hsin-yi (李欣怡), a 22-year-old PhD student in the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Chiao-Tung University, talked about how well she fitted into the male-dominated environment at school.

"The few girls in my department tend to stick together," she said, laughing.

"I've observed that actually girls do better than guys in my department, even though it's technology-oriented," she added.

The speakers agreed that women often hold themselves back due to the fear of success.

"They think they'll stunt their chances of finding a Mr. Right if they pursue their career or a PhD," said Lin.

"Especially in a field where men seem to be dominant, women are afraid to be too overpowering," Wang said.

There should be gender equality, but women should also remember not to expect better treatment just because they're women, said Wang.