I am an IT Project Manager by trade and it is very common that I am the only woman on a team of software developers. Sometimes there will be another woman on the Q&A team (low-level, entry position) but they are few and far between. Since the field of software development is growing and amongst the highest paying professions, I was disappointed to hear that our girls are still not penetrating this industry.
One of our favorite contributors at The Sweet Spot Blog, Courtney Aura Freeman, has recently published an informative article on this topic. It helps answer the question, where are girls in technology? This is a must-read for all parents out there with daughters!
Female Data Structures and Feminine Algorithms
One Woman’s Perspective on the Computer Science Gender Divide
After reading in a recent article that Google is providing scholarships for women in the tech industry to learn how to program, I was intrigued and possibly interested in applying. I read on about how Google is faced with a lack of diversity in their engineering pools — not enough women are seeking coding as a profession.
With some additional research, I discovered that Google is also sponsoring the “Made with Code” initiative featuring Chelsea Clinton and Mindy Kaling as role models for young women. In the last few years, Google donated $150,000 in grants for women’s living expenses while they attended a program called Code School. Other internet companies have followed suit with similar partnerships such as Etsy and the Hacker School, a free, grant-supported immersion program touted as a “writer’s workshop” for coders.
These are exciting solutions to what have become very high-profile questions — “Why are there so few women in computer technology today?” and “How do we inspire more women to seek a career in IT?”
I began to reflect on my early years at university, where I had studied computer science. While challenging (to say the least), I enjoyed learning how to program an instant messenger application in Java and organizing data for software development. It was both fun and thrilling when I was able to see the results of deep focus fueled by late night diet cola binges.
Half-way through the baccalaureate program, I determined that my dreams were for naught. Having read about Google’s diversity concerns, I recollected about the obstacles that I myself had encountered when seeking a CS degree, and I realized that I might have some pretty good insights as to why a smaller ratio of women to men are graduating with bachelor’s degrees in computer science now than they were in 1984 OR 1974 for that matter. I took a look around to see what answers I could find in existing literature on the world wide web. Here’s a sample…
The National Girls Collaborative Project sites US Department of Labor figures showing that women contribute a surprising 58.1% of the overall workforce in the United States but represent much smaller numbers in the fields of engineering and science.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) published some very interesting insights in 2010 with a paper appropriately titled “Why So Few.”
- Female performance suffers when girls face stereotypes that boys are better in math (not too surprising but relevant).
- Girls hold themselves to higher standards, feeling they must obtain exceptional grades to compete with men in future STEM careers (science, tech, engineering and math) and turn to other fields when grades are average.
- Boys are born more adept in spatial skills pertaining to the ability to visualize an object in 3D — needed for engineering fields — while girls are better in paper folding challenges for example. Research shows that skills are equalized with minor training for both sexes.
- Colleges can make big gains in recruitment and in retaining female students by “presenting a broader overview of the [computer science] field in introductory courses… and providing a student lounge.”