How can we encourage more young girls to pursue careers in technology- make the workplaces more friendly, or make technology seem cooler?
It is the same story all over the world- women remain resoundingly unrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and those that do choose to find a vocation in these fields are often met with sexism and isolation (#Gamergate, anyone?). Today’s Daily Read looks at a couple of recent columns and a feel-good story that highlights the issues at hand.
Why do women not work in technology companies ?
A recent article concludes that this is because of the work culture, the overwhelming perception that women will only be good at ‘softer’ functions like marketing within the organisation, and because their families and tendency for self criticism gets in the way.
Interestingly, in another study that we covered in this space a while ago, things don’t change much even for women in “nontechnical” roles in the tech industry.
As someone with experience in tech start-ups and behemoths, this editor also feels that the ‘collegial’ atmosphere that a lot of tech companies pride themselves on can in some ways be a deterrent to women employees- since it is often a shorthand for a very ‘male’ kind of bonding over sexist jokes and cheep beer (both of which I like only in limited quantities)
However, is work culture the only deterrent or could part of the issue also be that not enough women train in technology? There is a reason that Google, Yahoo! and Facebook between them have just 16% women employees in tech roles in spite of their commitment towards diversity- and while some of it may be because of the work environment, at least a part is also because not enough women study technology and engineering in the first place.
How do you bring more women in technology?
In a recent interview the Stanford President John Hennessy, shared an interesting viewpoint on how to encourage more women into technology; and at every level from schools to senior leadership his suggestions hinge on greater mentorship and networking within women in the field. Whether it is better role models at school to make math and science more attractive to young girls, to better student networks at graduate levels that stop them from getting disheartened by an occasional B or a C in a field in which they are isolated anyway, or a greater emphasis on the ‘social’ aspects of technology- all of these he believes will make technology more accessible to women.
From an Indian perspective, the blatant sexism in Engineering Colleges -where women are often derided as being ‘non males’ doesn’t help either.
Reshma Saujani – founder of Girls Who Code believes that a bigger reason is perhaps the fact that technology is just not marketed correctly towards girls. Her organisation helps make computing more fun for young girls, and as she says in this interview:
The Maker Faire movement is really important. It says that it’s not just boys that like to break things apart – it’s fun. What happens to boys in tech is in many ways different than what happens to girls in tech. it’s not that they’re facing sexism per se it’s that they don’t think it’s cool. So I think we really have to change the way we present technology.
What do you think should be done to increase the participation of women in technology? Make colleges and workplaces more friendly, or focus on making technology more attractive to little girls?
Do you know a little she-techie around you?