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Women in Ops

With the push towards diversity in tech, why are women under-represented in operations?
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woman frustrated with computer

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The push for diversity within tech is definitely needed, but there is one group left behind in most efforts: women in operations.

Now, operations tend to be the forgotten members of tech until something goes wrong. If they do their job correctly you'll never know they're even there as systems are deployed and remain online without any fanfare. When something breaks, they either take the heat, as it's their fault, or they're the heroes for saving the day and rarely anything in between.

Even the need for continuing education and networking for operators tends to be forgotten with most tech conferences being focused on development. There are exceptions such as DevOps Days, Operator Days, and even some operations tracks at some of the bigger conferences.

As the lack of diversity has become more of a focal point in tech, there has been an increase in the number of diversity-related groups. Grace Hopper is one of the largest tech conferences and is focused on women, but with little focus on operations. However, most of these groups are more developer-focused with little thought of increasing diversity on the operations side of the house.

With all that said, there are programs out there that focus on bringing women into operations. Open Cloud Academy, in San Antonio, Texas, offers a program specifically to train women for entry-level support and operations called "Linux for Ladies." And there's a group called Women in Linux that helps provide women interested in working with Linux resources, a list of job postings, and a community Slack.

Once a woman makes it into operations, the question becomes how many remain? If you walk around a company you'll see more females in support then you will in the NOC or as SREs. Continue walking and there are fewer women system administrators and then even fewer engineers.

I think the root of the problem is that there is nothing fancy about working in operations and let's be honest, it's hard. And for some, it's even harder when you're alone. So next time a woman joins your team, treat her as part of the team. If you're the lone woman engineer on a team, mentor other women in the company who are just starting out. The more women who rise through the ranks the easier it will be for others to follow.

Topics:   Career   Diversity   Sysadmin culture  
Author’s photo

Amy Marrich

Amy Marrich is the Open Source Community and Global Training Manager at O.A.T and previously was the OpenStack Instructor at Linux Academy, a Linux System Engineer on the Platform Engineering Cloud Operations team at Rackspace. More about me

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