Predicting the future can be pretty perilous, but technology will inevitably do much to shape the world’s future. But where do women stand in this future? What will be their contribution, and will we see more representation in the tech space? Will women be able to overcome pervasive barriers and get the targeted support to move forward in the world of technology?
This article explores the answers with the help of historical data, present statistics, and studies.
The current scenario
To understand how far we need to go to encourage more women in the tech sector, we need to understand the present picture with the help of statistics.
- Females hold only 17% of significant technology jobs, such as systems analysis, programming, or software development. (Source: World Economic Forum)
- Women make up only 20% of the grads in the IT degree programs (Source: World Economic Forum)
- Just 33% hold leadership positions in the technology sector. (Source: Deloitte)
- In Silicon Valley, women hold only 17% of tech leadership positions.
- As per a 2018 survey, approximately 70% of tech-employed women feel undervalued, patronized, and underestimated by their male peers.
The gender balance issue in the technology sector is evident from the statistics. At a time when artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer new avenues for economic advancement and job opportunities, what will women require to move forward and get more representation in the tech sector? Our next section sheds some light on that.
Moving at a slow and steady pace
The number of women in tech careers is increasing at a snail’s pace, but it points towards a brighter future. Despite the progress made so far, there is a long way to go. Deep-seated stereotypes and residual biases will still have an impact on several aspects of the future of women in the technology sector.
What will it require to narrow the gap?
Women need to be skilled, mobile, and tech-savvy to be more productive and get better-paid work. Inability to make the transition would mean a wider wage gap or be left further behind in the race.
Childhood education – how can it change everything?
Attitudes about females in technology are shaped as early on as childhood. Very few early education institutions encourage girls to pursue an education in STEM. Even today, stereotypes such as girls being weaker in math and science exist. Then some gender-specific toys and games profoundly impact girls’ career ambitions. (Source: ONS) Teachers and parents also play a critical part in influencing children’s career choices. Many people harbor outdated perceptions of jobs for men and women that discourage girls from taking up STEM subjects.
How can we break these stereotypes for a better future?
Education holds the key when it comes to breaking convention. TODAY, many K-12 schools across the US have started offering STEM programs for school-aged girls. Programs targeting children at the primary and nursery level have also begun happening. A good example is STEM ambassadors that aim to provide children with role models in STEM areas. These ”role models” visit schools to join in with lessons, give talks to motivate students, or work with educators to help improve the way STEM is delivered in classrooms.
Another significant contribution in this direction is StemFirst, which aims to raise awareness of the lack of women in tech.
The “People Like me program” aims to help girls match their attributes to those needed in STEM careers. Many young girls think that math and science are boys’ things. These programs are all about helping girls develop an inclination for these subjects at an early stage.
The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge encourages students in their teens to collaborate in teams and find innovative solutions to problems in cyber-technology and security, aerospace and aviation, health and nutrition, and energy and the environment. Half of the participants in this challenge are girls.
The role of parents
Parents have a crucial role in encouraging STEM learning at home. For example, they can encourage their female kids to play with STEM toys aimed at girls. Some of the newly released toys include – lego kits geared towards girls, FurReal toy pets, which children code themselves, and the engineering game Goldieblox.
Parents should also educate themselves about the diversity and scope of technology jobs and try to understand the skills involved to guide their kids better.
They can also encourage their kids to learn to code the same they encourage them to learn a second language.
The role of the entertainment industry
The entertainment industry, too, has been pretty biased when it comes to creating entertainment programs for kids. For example, Dexter’s Laboratory is a cartoon that leans towards lazy stereotyping. Many creators have realized this fact and are creating shows for kids that depict girls as the main character with extraordinary tech abilities. For instance, Bitz & Bob is a program with a girl engineer as the main character. The show tells preschool children that girls can be equally good at problem-solving and science.
The role of universities and tech employers
Universities have a big responsibility when it comes to closing gender gaps. Even though the number of women studying STEM subjects has increased, very few of them end up working in STEM-related careers. To tackle this issue, universities can hire more female STEM faculty members. Universities should also be more inclusive in terms of gender and diversity.
But what about the recruiters that show unconscious bias in female applicants? As per a PNAS study, recruiters were twice as likely to recruit a man for a role involving math, and it has nothing to do with skill-sets. This is the reason which discourages women from pursuing STEM careers.
Thankfully, some major players in the tech world have begun taking matters into their own hands. Lately, Intuit, the financial software giant, has initiated a company effort to entice qualified women for technical positions.
Indeed, women are still underrepresented in tech-related jobs and programs, but their contribution to the field is undeniable. Their vision is fundamental to creating and implementing solutions for a better future. Therefore, we need to have more women leaders and professionals in the tech space. Achieving this will depend on our educational institutions, culture, family, and past, present, and future knowledge.