Letter to the Editor

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Letter submitted to

Dear Editor, 

We read with interest your article “Addressing women in I.T. at GS”. We were not surprised but still disappointed that the third computing major on campus, Information Systems was left out. Historically at Georgia Southern our department has been confused with the other computing disciplines. In this letter, we want to provide a distinction for your readers on the difference between IS and IT and CS and then show that Information Systems is the “woman friendly” computing discipline.

The difference between the disciplines is relatively easy to describe. In the publication “Computing Curricula 2005 The Overview Report” (and yes, 2005 is the latest version) published by ACM, IEEE, AIS and the Computer Society, they provide descriptions of the fields. Computer Science, as they define it, focuses on programming, creating algorithms and developing the software for new uses for computers. These are the people who spend their days sitting at computers writing software. 

Information Technology focuses on meeting the technology needs of businesses. In the real world, these are the people who fix your PC, manage voice and data networks and administer servers and databases. 

Information Systems (IS), our field, focuses on working with users to define and implement solutions to information problems in the real world. This is the people focused computing discipline in which our graduates work with people to understand their computing problems, define process and computing based solutions to them and them assist them in implementing these solutions. 

Being the people oriented computing discipline, we find that women while still underrepresented, account for a higher percentage of the people in the field that the other fields. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that about one-third of people filling roles as IS managers and computer systems analysts are women.

In our department, 30 percent of the faculty are women. This figure used to be higher, but we had two separations in which women left, but were not replaced. Also, two of the last four chairs in our department have been women.

Why don’t more women major in the computing fields? Various studies suggest that is because women view computing as a male-dominated field occupied by geeks and loners with poor social skills who obsess over computers. They also suggest that women view the work as consisting of solely technical work and working on computers all day. As people who have worked in the field we can testify that nothing could be further from the truth.

To be sure there is technical work, but an IS graduate spends most of their time working with people. You have to have good people skills to be successful in IS. There are geeks and loners who are obsessed with computers certainly, but the people who are successful in the field are those who can manage the technically oriented people, work well with users of systems, communicate well and have other soft skills. Women have been very successful in Information Systems such as Cheryl Bunton, CIO of Gulfstream, Diane Schwarz, the CIO of Textron, Padmasree Warrior, CTO at Cisco and Motorola and Bridget van Kraigen, Sr. VP IBM Global Services.

We encourage women to look beyond the stereotypes and to investigate the reality of the information systems discipline, the people oriented computing discipline. We are available to talk with any of your readers to help them understand if an information systems career is for them. 

Camille Rogers

Michael Cuellar

Information Systems Department

College of Business

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