Taking A Giant Leap For Womankind:
The Past, Present and Future of Women and Computers

by Jayne A. Hitchcock

Nina Richardson remembers the days when computers were new, had 20 megabytes of hard disk space, but were high on hype and price.

"Do you remember how much the first PCs went for? Five and six thousand dollars! It was incredible, because I remember we made parts for the PCS and couldn't afford to buy one, let alone be given one to use at work," Richardson recalls. "I was in materials and planning and I had to do the spreadsheets. . . by hand with an eraser. I am totally serious. Here I am making the boards going into the PCs, but I can't use or buy one."

Now, 15 years later, Richardson has seen many changes, especially for women in the computer industry. And the price of PCs have come down to a more reasonable level so that just about anyone who is anyone has one.

"There are a lot more women in non-traditional segments of the company now," she said. "Before, you used to see women in clerical or support roles or in finance. Now we're seeing a lot more in different areas--the number of female engineers has increased dramatically. But, the number of women in technical sales and marketing has really increased."

Richardson noted that the number of saleswomen was almost zero years ago, but now there are many more. Although not still equal in number to men, she said that 20% of the people who call on Micronics for the technical products are female.

It may be better for women in the computer industry, but there is still the "old boys network" to deal with, even today.

"I have met young men discriminate against women and I've met older men who I think would have this attitude and they just don't have it," Richardson says. "It really comes down to the company management and atmosphere there."

So when Micronics came knocking at her door, via a recruiter, Richardson thought long and hard about it.

"At first I thought, boy, getting back in the consumer industry, I don't know. But I saw the company had a good growth opportunity and well. . ."

Richardson joined Micronics just after New Years in 1995 as Director of Materials, was promoted to Director of Business Development soon after, and is now Vice President of Business Development.

"Basically, I look at new business opportunities and potential customers," she explains. "For example, we were looking for a low-cost product and someone to partner with. I went out, found the person to partner with, got all the contracts signed and then brought that product into production in our factory."

But that is not all Richardson does. If there is something that needs to be done internally, she is asked to help out. As a result, she learns more and finds her job is something new every day.

"I'm never bored here," she laughs.

Although Micronics has been around for a decade, Richardson said she sincerely feels that the product offering has just about doubled since she came on board.

"Back when I first started, most of the product development was primarily for the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) market and secondarily for distribution," Richardson said. "As Micronics has grown, we now have products for the consumer channel, products for the distribution channel, and our OEM channel."

One of these new products is targeted at the consumer, the recently released Righteous 3D board, designed to make 3D look better on a PC than it ever has before.

This leads Richardson to her views on the future of the computer industry, especially for women.

"I plan on staying here for a long time," Richardson says. "And I see a lot more women moving into key roles in this industry. Debbie Coleman, from Apple, had been the first manufacturing vice-president and started her own company in the northwest not too long ago. Women getting into management roles is going to bring a different slant to the industry and you'll see a different user base as a result of it. Software has always been designed with men in mind. There's a big push now for games for pre-adolescent girls and I think that will carry over into the adult female market. It's not going to be just Barbie, it will be something any woman can relate to and enjoy."

Micronics Computers. Inc. is located in Fremont, California. Although motherboards are their primary business, they also produce video graphics cards and PC systems. For more information on their company, products and services, visit their Website at or call them at (510) 661-3100.

Copyright 1996 Jayne A. Hitchcock

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