By: Kathy Vogler, Expedient Technologies
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the rapid rise in women’s participation in the work force was a major development in the labor market during the second half of the 20th century. In 2019, 57.4% of all women participated in the labor force1.
It’s become normal for women to contribute to their families’ finances and fill jobs in the marketplace. We celebrate these accomplishments. However, working women still face serious challenges that their male counterparts typically do not: motherhood and childcare, equal pay discrepancies, growth ceiling challenges with fewer leadership opportunities, and industry specific bias.
Currently only 22.3% of workers in the technology field are women. A few other fields show similar statistics and a woman trying to make a career in these male-dominated industries must face these biases and cultures.
A simple search of LinkedIn Groups for “women in tech” results in over 1,000 offerings. We are trying! My first female focused group experience was in 2013 with Women of Cisco and I’m proud of Technology First for creating Women 4 Technology in 2015. A more recent group (2018) is CompTIA Advancing Women in Technology. Women in this field understand the challenges. These groups bring together supportive women offering training, guidance, and mentoring.
57.4% Overall – 22.3% Technology. Why the disparity in these numbers?
Educators have been working on this issue for many years. How can we attract more young girls to choose a technology career? “Start early!” shares Martha Taylor, Sinclair Community College Professor of CS&IT “Provide educational opportunities and career modules to K-6 grade teachers and counselors and bring to top of mind the IT career opportunities. Create programming modules with hands-on projects that will start to build interest in IT for these young women.” And, from Kristin Friend, Senior Partner Development Manager Microsoft “Exposure, exposure, exposure! We need to make sure our STEM programs are designed for and marketed to girls of all ages with women mentors from the technology industry highly engaged with these programs.”
I attend a lot of technology focused jobs fairs and the number of young women attending and applying for available technology positions is dismal. Take a look at the crowd at the next technology event you attend, you’ll see the same. A glimmer of hope is that the women who are working in technology are thriving and are willing to help others succeed. The Technology First Peer Group Women 4 Technology currently has 66 active members and quarterly events. We are trying!
Intel’s 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Report 2 shows their goal is to increase representation of women in technical roles to 40% by 2030. Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code hopes to close the gender gap in entry level tech jobs by 2030 3 “It’s imperative for leaders to play a bigger part in this effort. Women who do take tech jobs often drop out at age 35. We need to focus on changing hiring practices and changing culture to sustain their careers and get deep and hardwired into the company DNA. Sisterhood continues to shape the lives of women in tech who have been hidden or not recognized. You’ll get stuck but you’ll have this team of support through the sisterhood that will carry you through into the workforce. Be reflective of things that push you out of your comfort zone. If you have a supportive organization or company, you’ll find that scaffolding you’ll need to sustain.”
Some important career lessons learned about being female in technology, “You have to demonstrate you have the knowledge to work in IT. It’s important to acquire skills and stay relevant in your field” shares Martha Taylor. And, from Kristin Friend “If you find a job opening that you may not have all of the skillsets per the post, it is ok, still go for it! Men do this all the time, whereas women tend to hold back until they feel they have checked all the requirement boxes. You want to find a job where you can leverage the skillset you have but can also grow and learn to advance your career.”
Women have come a long way but the fallacy persists that most women would rather not be techie. This change in mindset to offer technical opportunities to young women needs to come from parents, teachers, guidance counselors and course learning mechanisms. To keep the women who choose this path from discouragement, change in mindset needs to happen with the C Suite, HR and employee culture committees. Women bring strength through diversity and will positively impact technology given the opportunity.
We are trying!
1 Women in the labor force: a databook : BLS Reports: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
2 Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) 2021 diversity and inclusion report - Bizwomen (bizjournals.com)