This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question.
Okay, I’m an older geek woman (turned 39 this year) who’s done some time on helldesk, and is currently studying for a BSc in Computer Science and Games Technology (double major). I started the degree because I’ve been applying for jobs pretty steadily, and I’ve been sent along to interviews on a fairly regular basis where I’m able to answer the questions, and I figure I come across as competent, but I never actually get the job, and neither do I hear back about why I didn’t get it. I’ve started to work on the default assumption that I’m disadvantaged in the IT market by being too female, too old, and suffering from “Not Pretty Enough” (I am not and never have been a pretty little thing; any attractiveness I have comes from my mind). I also have chronic depression, which means I really don’t want to be in a situation where I’m constantly attempting to push gravy uphill with a fork in regards to getting my abilities recognised.
Realistically, what would my career path options be?
Commenters, just a caution on this. A lot of people here work in IT, so a lot of people may want to comment. Great! But actual stories of non-traditional entry into IT are going to be much more useful than “well, I graduated at 22 and went into a graduate program, but here’s a theory I just came up with on the fly about what I’d probably try if I was in the questioner’s situation…” Did you yourself enter IT in your thirties or forties (or when older again), particularly as a woman or outsider? If not, have you seen someone else do it? If not, do you know of any studies or resources?
Also, please watch for privilege in your comments. Volunteering IT skills, participating in networking or common-interest groups, developing FLOSS and so on all take privilege of various kinds. If these are part of your recommendations or your own experience you can share them, but don’t imply anything like “well, if you really wanted to work in IT you’d…” or “well, if you were really passionate about IT you’d be…”
Update: please also indicate your geographical location(s) as precisely as you feel comfortable with. The IT job market varies a fair bit around the world and the questioner and other women in her position may want to weigh your advice according to conditions in their local area. (Special note to people in the US: shorthand for your cities like “SF”, “LA” and “NYC” are not always well understood outside the US.)