The number of jobs in the tech industry is expected to explode in the coming years as more companies embrace digital transformation.
This is good news for the 74 percent of young women who express interest in tech careers. Unfortunately, statistics show that this number will decrease dramatically as they grow older. In the year 1993, 28 percent of computer science graduates were women, but now, it’s down to 18 percent.
While there are still many barriers for minorities in tech, a shift toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) corporate initiatives have worked to foster a more inclusive environment for women. For example, there are several tech organizations that have developed programs geared toward encouraging young women to get involved in the industry.
Young girls have more women role models in tech to look up to than ever before, and the representation is proving to have an impact on young girls across the globe. Let’s look at the importance of gender diversity in tech and how to get more young women involved.
COVID-19 had a profound effect on people across the globe, but women were hit particularly hard by the financial effects. According to one recent study conducted by Freshbooks, 69 percent of women experienced a decrease in income compared to only 59 percent of men.
Women also experienced 5 percent greater job loss during this time, and they still shoulder greater domestic and caregiving burdens at home than their male counterparts. In response, there have been initiatives put in place to help women recover from the pandemic by providing funding and learning opportunities so they can land jobs in sought-after positions, like tech.
Just like any other industry, there are pros and cons when it comes to working in tech. These positions usually require a great deal of problem solving and creativity on a daily basis, which makes it an ideal career path for innovators and STEM lovers. The pay is pretty good, too, with a median salary of $127,000 and lots of demand for professionals.
But for women, the list of cons includes gender discrimination and lack of representation, which plays a big part in whether young women decide to pursue tech careers. Minority women are even more scarce in tech, with only 1 percent of high-level tech positions held by people who aren’t white.
What women bring to tech
The odds may sometimes feel stacked against women who seek tech careers, but women have a lot to offer that often goes unnoticed. Although it’s well-established that there are no differences between male and female brains, the lived experiences of minorities often better position them to lead with empathy, ambition, and humility.
Some of the qualities that one might find to be positive for men are habitually twisted into negatives when they are seen in women. For example, an assertive man is more likely to be seen as “driven,” but an assertive woman is likely to be seen as “bossy.” Furthermore, ambition is often described in a negative light when applied to women, but a woman’s fiery ambition is necessary for taking a stand, realizing her goals, and helping others achieve success along the way.
Even if these messages aren’t stated explicitly, young people are especially vulnerable to internalize negative messaging. This eventually leads to discouragement, burnout, and perceived failure.
What’s more, men have historically been socialized to be more combative, while women have been encouraged to be collaborative and communicative. These unfortunate social constructs show through in today's leaders, where women leaders are shown to perform better in some situations, for example, in crisis leadership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this success is often attributed to communication, a skill that no executive can survive without.
Another skill set that women can lean into is the ability to multitask. There have been several studies conducted on men and women’s ability in this respect, with women performing better. While one should not put too much weight on such statistics—men are perfectly capable of multitasking too—this is another important skill set in the tech industry that women can highlight to their advantage.
Supporting young women of the future
Supporting the next generation of women programmers, engineers, and developers is crucial for growth. Technology is always changing, and if women want to play a part in the evolution, then we need to step up and show young girls how to get involved.
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”This famous quote from children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edleman says it all. Young girls interested in tech careers are in desperate need of role models who look like them.
When children are asked to draw a scientist, most will draw a white man in a lab coat. That’s what they see on TV, in movies, online, and, often, in real life. But there are great examples of women in tech that we don’t hear enough about. It’s important that young women hear these stories and learn about how other women like them were able to make a difference.
Tuition for a coding bootcamp can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $21,000, and while many offer scholarships and financial assistance, it can still be difficult for young women to obtain the funding they need to learn critical tech skills. Other women who have achieved success in the tech field should consider contributing to STEM-related scholarship programs that are available to women or helping women in their lives get connected with these resources.
Typically, when you’ve been pushed toward mentorship, you may have been coached toward finding a mentor for yourself. But have you ever thought of becoming a mentor for someone else?
Mentorship programs through organizations such as uCodeGIrl, Girls Teaching Girls to Code, and Girls Who Code provide young women with the ability to receive hands-on, skill-based advice as well as networking and other practical tech career advice. It’s important for women (and men) currently employed in tech to pass on their skills and insider knowledge to the next generation of girls.
Women in tech can help encourage young women to get involved in tech by volunteering their time. Speak at local schools, get the word out about programs in the community, and let your voice be heard.
Putting yourself out there and showing young women that they can work in the tech field just like you can make a huge difference in many lives. With nearly 4 billion daily internet users, a successful community outreach program may just involve a little social media marketing on the right platforms so that young women and their parents can get involved.
Engaging young women who show interest in tech related jobs will be increasingly important as programming and other tech skills continue to be in demand. Nurturing these skills in young women who are interested in STEM—and encouraging them to assert themselves in traditionally male-dominated industries—can change the course of the future.