Despite the unprecedented growth of the IT industry, the diversity of its workforce has remained relatively unchanged. Only 25% of U.S. IT workers are female, emphasizing the fact that women are still underrepresented in the field. In order to move toward a more inclusive future, it’s important to take a look at the underpinnings of this discrepancy as well as the many resources that exist for women in technology.
Early Encouragement Is Necessary
The underrepresentation of women in technology often begins early on during school-age years. At ages 6-12, 66% of girls are interested in computing programs. From ages 13-17 that number drops to 32%, and by the time they are college freshmen the number of girls interested in the tech field bottoms out at 4%.
In 1984, 37% of computer science graduates were women, compared to 18% today. As the tech field is largely populated by men, it is clear that societal norms are discouraging girls from entering the field, dampening their interest in IT during the most crucial and formative years of their lives. This has set the stage for women to pursue alternate degrees and other professional industries, resulting in only 5 percent of leadership positions in the technology industry being held by women.
In order to turn the tides, the encouragement of interest in IT for young girls and women is necessary on every level. Promoting a more inclusive culture, both in the tech industry as a whole and inside individual corporations, is a good first step forward. Major tech company GE recently pledged to have 20,000 women working in tech roles by 2020, an excellent statement to make for the future and an example to follow. It is this mentality that must permeate every corner of the industry. Recruiting, professional development, and mentorship focused on women will push back against what has become an unfortunate societal norm.
Support Networks for Women in Technology
There are a great number of excellent organizations and support networks that are specifically for women in technology. While each may have a slightly different focus or region to serve, they are friendly and open providers of female mentorship and career guidance. Even if a woman finds herself working for a company that severely lags in diversity and is behind the times, a great female-based organization can offer the career support everyone needs in their professional life.
Women in Technology is one of the best, most comprehensive organizations for women in the field. Offering leadership development, education, a mentor program, and job fairs, the organization has a great number of resources for any career level. Organizations that accomplish similar objectives include the National Center for Women & Information Technology and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.
Also worth noting are the organizations that focus especially on young girls and emerging women in technology. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs focused on the next generation of women and provides a five-week mentorship program each year. Girls Who Code boasts over 40,000 members of school-aged girls and provides a summer immersion program for 10th and 11th grade girls.
Events are Abundant
Sometimes affiliated with an organization and sometimes stand-alone, conferences and events are great resources for women in technology to find networking and career advancement opportunities. Events take place all over the United States, and some can even be attended digitally. Being surrounded by other women provides a comfortable environment to gain knowledge and address topics from a communal perspective. Popular events throughout the year include:
- The 5th annual Voices Conference in March.
- Innotech’s 2017 Women in Tech Summit in April.
- The 23rd annual Women in Technology Summit in June.
- The 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in October.
- Women 2.0 featuring events in various cities throughout the entire year.
Inspirational IT Women
As with any professional field that one is trying progress in, it is always best to look at successful examples of those that have come before. There is no shortage of powerful women in technology to turn to. Just a handful of examples are:
- Chief Financial Officer of Google Ruth Porat, who was known as the most powerful woman on Wall Street prior to joining the most famous tech company in the world. Under her guidance, Google stock has grown 30%.
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, donated $31 million to charities that support women in the workplace. A Harvard graduate and single mother of two, she is the author of a best-selling book.
- Worth over $2 billion, Meg Whitman is the CEO of HP. Prior to her current role, she led eBay from $5.7 million in revenue to $8 billion in just 11 years.
- In 2014 the U.S. government tapped Megan Smith to be the country’s Chief Technology Officer. Previously, Megan was Vice President of Google’s secret research lab known as Google X.
The Future of Women in Technology
Taken as a whole, the swell of activity through organizations, events, and company leadership makes a strong statement: the future of technology is female. Given the current IT skills gap and that the ability to hire staff is a top challenge for IT executives, the stage is set for a workforce revolution. At KORE1, some of the brightest minds we have had the pleasure to work with, both internally and as candidates, are women. We look forward to more businesses following suit and enjoying the benefits of a diversified, expert staff.