Put 60 working women together in a room and what do they talk about?

Working men.

But the conversation last week at the first formal meeting of a group called Women in Information Processing was not intended to be frivolous. The issues they discussed concentrated on the problems of women attempting to climb the corporate ladder.

The common denominator for those attending was that they have something to do with computers or the information that goes into them.

Pamela Ernie, who operates a computer for the Planning Research Center in McLean, voiced a common concern when she talked about the stigma that is often attached to her profession.

"A lot of men won't touch word processing with a ten-foot pole because they think it's a secretarial job," she said.

"They still think it's clerical work just because it has a keyboard. But when it comes to retrieving information for a client, these men will wish they had learned to operate their computers," Ernie said.

Many of those attending the meeting said they felt this "scretarial" prejudice. But the prevailing complaint was discrimination on the basis of sex.

The plight of women in the workplace and the sex discrimination they encounter was the subject discussed by the guest speaker, Karen Shanor, a psychologist and WRC Radio talk show moderator.

Shanor encouraged the group to support each other as women rather than compete with men, and to "develop a network" to help each other. She urged them to fight the female tendency to depend upon men that "dates back to day one, the day you were wrapped in a pink blanket instead of a blue blanket."

Shanor said one of the things women must fight is a lack of self-confidence. She cited a study on how men and women use language in reacting to certain situations.

"The study showed that men accept compliments with a 'thank you.' They take credit for whatever it is they've done," said Shanor. "But women won't take credit. They blame the circumstances of their action.

"They use too many qualifiers when they speak, like 'this may sound stupid but' or 'I'm sorry but'. Don't blame yourself. You've got to like yourself, and like each other."

Shanor's parting advice to the group was, "Don't rock the boat so much that your company knows who's rocking it. Let them think it's the waves . . . until you're captain."