Women in Technology: Are things changing?
In preparation for this blog, I decided to do a little research on the subject matter because, well #obvious. I started with the basic Google search of Women in Technology and found Tweets, a couple blogs, and a website literally called WomeninTechnology.org. At a casual first glance, it seemed like the basic stuff: blogs, ads, social media, etc. But when I took a deeper dive, I realized that almost everything listed was inspirational, spoken with a “women helping other women” voice and tonality, almost as if this was a crisis before it was a concept. Also, where were all the women?
My research took me down an alternate route as I dug a little deeper on this subject and more and more I was hit with how little women are actually in the tech industry. My blog, which was originally outlined as a, Women in Technology: A Force to be Reckoned With, quickly shifted tones to, What Women in Technology?
As a woman, I couldn’t help but ask myself, why? Why in a world where women can be all things – from scientists to artists – would shy away from something as fascinating as technology?
I’m seeing a pattern here, and it’s not all polka dots.
Prior to joining Perch, I worked in marketing/customer relations for a real estate app, and even before that as a marketing director for a company that designed software for green (sustainable) building engineers. You could say the last seven years of my career have been somewhat tech-related, but in looking back, I noticed one major trend: in all three companies men made up 90% of the workspace.
Without making the heads of my co-workers any larger (you can meet them all here) I am honestly surrounded by some highly talented, brilliant individuals, albeit mostly men. I know Perch and my previous companies aren’t anomalies when it comes to the women-to-men ratio, but it’s still something I noticed. The people I work with outside this organization are primarily men and the few women who are employed share similar roles to me or to each other; marketing, finance, event planning, etc.
Christy Coffey, EVP of Operations for MSPISAO, is a very nice rarity when it comes to this. She is one of the few female EVPs in this industry and is very unapologetic for it.
“I started my career writing software when there were very few women in technical positions. I distinctly remember being a database administrator in the late 90’s on a team of ten men. A decade and half later, I transitioned into cybersecurity where there is a shortage of skilled workers and few women.” said Coffey.
“I am encouraged though. There are organizations like the “Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS)” who are dedicated to filling unfilled cybersecurity positions with qualified women, and I’ve noticed an uptick in academic scholarships being made available to women pursuing cybersecurity studies. Hopefully, academic and corporate initiatives can drive culture change. We need to attract women to cybersecurity employment opportunities, and retain them."
Aside from Mrs. Coffey the majority of the higher positions - the developers, the coders, the CISOs, CEOs and so on - are mainly men. Coincidence? I think not.
- Women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, but only account for less than 20% of tech jobs.
- In April of 2017, there were 627,000 unfilled positions in tech, even though tech jobs are flourishing - cyber security, cloud computing, software
- Young girls are discouraged in pursuing STEM at a young age due to lack of female mentors, hands-on experience and gender inequality.
In a world where #thefutureisfemale, it makes me wonder why this industry, that literally has to be at the forefront of innovation in order to remain relevant, is so behind on the times. Is it the industry? Is it that women are still forced into the same roles they have been for so long and find it hard to break the mold? Is it all the above?
“The tech industry needs more women to ensure its sustainability and success long-term. The inclusion of women in the tech industry will help it succeed long-term and will empower them to build their own success stories in the fastest growing industry worldwide.” — Hilary Laney, CEO of Evia Events.
Change is coming
Women are coming down hard on closing the gender gap and are finally making a statement. Many schools now offer coding as part of the curriculum to kids as young as middle and high-schoolers up through the college level. Pushing aside the fear of dating myself, 20 years ago when I was in high school, there was nothing of the sort offered to us. It wasn’t until many years later I freelanced with a potential start-up called Code Girls, an aspiring company that employed only women coders as outsourced workers, that I knew anything about coding or the lack of females in this space. Now, things are different, or at least, on the way to being different. If you scroll through social media you may be served ads similar to the one below, prompting promise of becoming a UX designer via a pretty girl in glasses. Is this a step in the right direction or just a tactful social media ad? Maybe both, but at least they know they need to start catering to this demographic.
High Profile Women in Tech
It wouldn’t be fair of me to skip over the fact that there are many influential women in this industry, going back many, many years. Dating back to Williamina Fleming and the Harvard “computers” in the late 1800s to more recently, Joan Ball, who basically invented online dating. Karen Spärck Jones who introduced the idea and methods of “term weighing” aka “Google-ing”, and the “mother of computing”, Grace Hopper, who back in the 1940’s programmed the Mark 1 computer that brought speed and accuracy to military initiatives. Some more recent women include Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Susan Wojcicki, Google’s first marketing manager.
While this is inspiring, it still doesn’t compare to the current status of this industry. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 25% of the computing workforce was female in 2015. Additionally, “Women, especially women of color, are essentially “absent” from technology innovation.” (NCWIT.com).
Women are shattering the proverbial glass-ceiling and breaking their tethers of stale, outdated careers in search of new options. Women are now running for president, launching multi-million dollar companies (hello, Spanx) and acting as CEO for Fortune 500 companies, such as General Motors, IBM, Pepsico, Progessive, and so many more. Women are among the top neurosurgeons, attorneys, CEOs, you-name-it in the World, and it only seems to be getting better. Who knows why it lacks in tech, and if or when that will change, but I’d like to see where the future takes us. As a little popstar named Beyonce once sang, Who run the world? Girls.
Additional info pertaining to women in the tech industry can be found here.