29 Aug How Women In Tech are Paving the Way for Younger Generations
Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the gender gap admirably, saying he wasn’t satisfied with the not-so-surprising stats. Unfortunately, Apple’s male-female ratios are just a representation–maybe a generous one–of the technology landscape today.
Our friends at Avaya have started a social media campaign called #WomeInTech. They call it a “global call to action for women to step up in the workplace, take control of their careers, and make an impact in an industry that has a history of undervaluing women.” And, being a tech solutions company with plenty of ceiling-shattering women in our ranks, we decided to jump in with our two cents.
We’re here to say that women belong in technology as much as their male peers. So why are we seeing this gap?
Tech fields have never completely excluded women
Let’s set the scene. We won’t say that women have ever been completely absent from the hard sciences. According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, 37% of computer science undergraduate degree recipients in 1985 were women. That’s not a bad start.
We’ve got some brilliant minds at work today in our tech sectors. Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Susan Wojcicki of Google and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo.
These women are powerhouses of creativity, innovation, and unyielding determination. Most of them started out as entry-level employees at established tech companies–IBM was and continues to be a major hub of great tech leaders–who have worked their way up the ladder. Like their male peers, they worked long hours and weren’t satisfied with the status quo.
Women have had some truly crucial roles in getting various computing and tech operations off the ground. Maximum PC created a list of the 15 most important women in tech history, and it’s fascinating. Women certainly weren’t common in engineering circles, but they aren’t as absent from computing, processing, and data history as we might think.
So what’s the big deal?
Unlike their male peers, most women aren’t groomed from a young age for careers in the hard sciences (commonly referred to as STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). And that’s a huge problem.
Brandy Semore, Operations Manager here at Pinnacle Business Systems, puts it this way:
“Getting young girls into STEM fields is not about feminism, it’s about encouraging young women to pursue careers in male dominated fields – not to prove a point, but to prove [that] they can [go into these fields] if they want to. It’s important for me to inspire my daughter to explore all types of studies, and to not shy away from any one thing based on her gender.”
Why getting girls into STEM is harder than it should be
Getting a girl from elementary math class to an engineering degree and a career in a STEM field is more difficult than it should be. Between 2000 and 2012, there has been a 64 percent decline in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) published a report called Why So Few about the challenges facing women becoming part of the tech sector – read it here. Below, some of its main points:
- We tell boys and girls that they have different strengths–even if we don’t mean to. Part of the way we engage in gender conditioning is implying that boys are inherently better at math and science, and girls are inherently better at the humanities (history, the arts, writing, and reading).
- As it turns out, boys and girls perform at the same level on math and science tests when test administrators tell them that men and women are equally skilled at these sciences.
- STEM fields in higher education are often unwelcoming to women.
- Women who pursue “masculine” interests or careers have traditionally faced social stigmatization.
- Women who excel at “masculine” careers – that is, who display competence and skill in these fields – are considered less likable by their peers.
There’s nothing appealing about the prospect of pursuing interests and a career in a field in which you’ll be misunderstood or even shunned.
Changing the mindset of the incoming workforce and next generations will enable women and men alike to remove social stigma’s when choosing career fields and pursuing interests.
Getting young women into STEM fields at an early age
To attract more women to the tech sector, we have to change the way we treat STEM fields right now. The White House is working to address this issue, as are plenty of national and global organizations, even toy companies:
- Girls Get IT https://www.mywit.org/manage-your-career/girls-get-it/program-overview
- Girls Who Code https://girlswhocode.com/
- Ignite Worldwide https://www.igniteworldwide.org/
- Little Miss Geek https://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-10/03/little-miss-geek
Of course, piquing girls’ interest in technology and hard sciences should have more to do with actual interest than with simply being a woman in a male-dominated field.
“It is my hope that regardless of gender, a young man or woman paves their path based on interest and encouragement, rather than doubt and gender-role expectations.” –Amber Lawhun, VP of Marketing and Partner Programs
Amber Lawhun, Vice President of Marketing and Partner Programs also of Pinnacle Business Systems, feels the change starts with educational institutions. “As a woman with 13 years in the technology industry, I’m proud to see the momentum and shift in the industry, where women are championing one another to pursue and further their careers in STEM fields. And as a mother, I’m extremely motivated by the focus and number of programs geared toward young women expanding their options in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.”
Women are making waves at global tech companies. We’re drawing huge crowds for speaking engagements at venues like the TED stage. We’re doing things our great-grandmothers couldn’t have imagined, and it’s time for us to do even more. So that our daughters believe that they can do whatever it is they want to do.
Continuing to invest in our young women and creating awareness through initiatives like #WomenInTech will change the rate that women are progressing through STEM fields and help cultivate education, regardless of gender.