Picture this: You are in the midst of seeing a movie when it is revealed that the destiny of the entire world rests in the hands of a computer scientist that has to deactivate a nuclear bomb by manically entering a series of complicated code. All eyes are on them as onlookers wait with bated breath to see if they’ll live to take another.
Who performs this part in your mind? Is it a nerdy guy with glasses in a t-shirt and jeans or can it be an intelligent, capable woman? It’s likely your initial depiction of this character was that the former and that’s fine. In reality, that character probably is a man, considering just 18 percent of current computer science graduates are women. Shocking? Yes. But why is it important?
Research indicates that by 2020, there’ll be 1.4 million jobs in the computing sector and just enough graduates to fulfill 29 percent of these jobs — 3% of that will be women. This presents an incredible opportunity for women to join the boys club that’s Silicon Valley.
If we want to benefit from these chances and rectify the gender gap today and later on, it’s important to figure out women aren’t choosing positions in technology and we are able to do to change this.
It Happens At The Classroom
Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference to a largely male audience concerning the lack of women in Silicon Valley. Obama attributed the lack of diversity into a problem that begins in the classroom and urged those in the area to assist. “Women walk away from technology and science. . ….There’s something about how this subject is being educated. You guys are smarter than that. You’re much better than that, let’s figure out it,” Obama pressed.
Although changing the diversity of an industry is no small feat, Obama was completely correct in her assertion that the lack of women in the tech industry is a matter that begins well before women enter the work force. Research suggests that three main obstacles hold girls and girls back from pursuing careers in technology.
- It’s a Man’s World: It’s a story as old as time; mathematics and science are for men and the humanities and arts are more suitable for women. Many female students continue to feel this way even today, which means something should shift in regard to these topics are approached and taught in school. GirlsWhoCode intends to change that by offering summer immersion programs for women to develop a sense of identity and confidence about their coding skills.
- The’Boring’ Factor: Although some female students enjoy and also excel in STEM subjects, many shy away from these roles because of absence of information. Some students wonder whether a job in technology will stifle their creativity, be boring or fail to generate any actual difference in the world — also indicating a need for advanced education.
- Invisible Role Models: While 34% of pupils aim to emulate somebody who holds a prominent position in their preferred field of work, only 22 percent of women could name a renowned female working in tech. This disparity makes it nearly impossible for young girls to picture themselves in the technology space. How do we emulate those who we cannot see?
Putting Girls Up To Succeed in Tech
Educational institutions and technology companies must come together to alter the present system which has mostly failed our youth when we would like to inspire girls and women to pursue careers in engineering and enhance the present gender gap.
- Historical Entry into STEM: While female students’ interest in computer science will diminish more than the most critical fall occurs between the ages of 13 and 17. This has prompted advocates of computer science programs to push for middle school programs that teach and inspire youth to pursue careers in engineering. Of the schools that currently have computer science programs, most start in high school, at which stage it’s often too late to ignite an interest. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Fred Wilson advocated for coding programs in college by assessing learning to code to learning a new language on his blog saying,”We are still teach our children French but we do not teach them Ruby on Rails. Which do you think will help them in the next several years?” Given the rapidly evolving world of technology, it seems sensible that we equip our children with the resources they need to succeed; in 2017 that includes communicating.
- Diversify Silicon Valley: Michelle Obama struck the nail on the head when she asked the guys of Silicon Valley to make room in the table for ladies. If we would like to encourage girls and women to pursue careers in technology, they must feel comfortable to do so. Technology companies will need to make a collective effort to market their companies, create alternative routes of entry and create more comprehensive policies suited for women. Apprenticeship programs and university partnerships provide female students the access and experience needed to step in the area of technology. The onus lies on the technology industry to get involved, educate youth, and inspire them to pursue a career in technology.
- Build Networks: Lastly, for the girls brave enough to join the boys’ club, we must create networks to encourage one another. It can be difficult to be heard as the only female in the room, but we will need to keep trying if we would like to inspire change. Networking with other girls in tech can enable us to feel empowered and supported in a room full of men in addition to provide valuable insights and tools to further our careers. Resources like com now offer women career coaching, resume support, and even a system for tracking accomplishments over the years to demonstrate their value.
The technology business is a fast expanding, high-paying sector that holds substantial opportunities for girls. Although we face many barriers to entry, persistence, dedication, and education will help present and future women to find their seat in the tech table.