21st Century: Women are still under-represented in Tech — The next generation can change that!
We talk a lot on this blog about the amazing women in tech and how girls in STEM groups can be the trailblazers of the future. The gender imbalance in tech companies and the wider world of technology and STEM academia is slowly but inexorably finding starting to balance out. Yet, according to Executive Women in Tech (EWIT), only 21% of leadership positions in technology companies were held by women in 2021. When you look at software engineering roles, that figure drops sharply, to only 14%. That’s a worrying picture for our girls in tech — is there a place for them at the table in 2022, or is the gender gap still too large and fraught with obstacles?
Why are women still in this position in 2022?
Of course, our answer to this is absolutely “Yes, there’s room at the table!”. We firmly believe that encouraging more girls to engage with technology is not only desirable but essential. As the world becomes more connected, tech skills like coding, AI, and data management are the key to facing new challenges. In order to get more girls to a position where they have access to the same opportunities as their male counterparts, we have to really examine why girls and women don’t account for much of the tech workforce currently.
One of the problems is that overriding stereotypes created by the current status quo pervade. People may assume that because there aren’t many women in tech, it’s because they don’t want to be there. That attitude, unfortunately, has an immense and negative knock-on effect:
· Teachers may assume girls won’t be interested in tech groups at schools
· Teachers or parents can fail to notice when girls have an interest in tech because they’re simply not looking out for it
· Girls interested in tech become afraid to say so for fear of being singled out as different
· Sexist attitudes mean that sometimes girls are bullied or derided for engaging in tech — a good example of this is how girl gamers of all ages are still treated derisively, especially in many online communities
By the time girls are old enough and confident enough to speak up louder for themselves, they have often engaged with other topics. That means that it’s often too late to steer them onto a different educational route. If you’ve spent the last five years becoming an expert in history, taking a coding course might be the last thing on your mind. Because of this, so many talented young women with the potential to become leaders in the world of tech simply never find the outlet they need, because they’re told it doesn’t exist.
Conversely, there’s a problem with tech companies and other organisations preaching to the converted. Tech enterprises who approach women in their late teens and early twenties will gain some traction — from women who were already pursuing a career in tech, either via academic or vocational means. While it might seem good for the companies who hire these aspiring women in tech, it does nothing to address the problems with encouraging girls to get into STEM education at a much earlier age.
By only engaging women who are already interested in tech, the number of women actually succeeding in STEM roles is only growing at a very slow rate. Earlier intervention is a must for companies who are serious about addressing the tech gender imbalance.
Engaging Girls in Tech: What’s the Solution?
Groups like Girls Into Coding want all girls to have the same opportunities to go into the world of tech in any way they want. They can use their coding, robotics, or 3D printing skills to become designers, data managers, AI experts, or create the next generation of robots for healthcare settings. How do we stop these passionate and intelligent girls from slipping through the cracks?
Schools and parents can help by ensuring that girls’ education on coding and other tech subjects starts earlier. Most kids can operate a mobile phone or a games console pad by the time they’re 4 or 5 years old. Expand upon that by showing them how easy it is to code a short program. Watch entertaining TV programs about the newest developments in tech. Let your girls join tech groups and find out how things work. Making and creating are essential to brain development, and the earlier your girls get into tech, the better chance they have of maintaining that passion.
Tech Companies Engaging with Grassroot Organisation
Tammi Warfield, the Senior VP at data platform provider Delphix, recently spoke to TechRound about increasing diversity within the technology industries. She said:
“Whilst the industry is already making strides when it comes to the gender balance, there is still much to be done. Tech companies need to be proactive when it comes to connecting with the next generation and get involved with initiatives…”
She was referring to companies engaging with free resources for kids that allow them to learn about coding and other important skills at their own pace, in a way that’s fun and entertaining. All kids learn better when they’re having fun and when they see others like them enthusing about the same subjects. That’s why Girls Into Coding embraces peer-led learning, allowing girls to mentor each other. Not only does this make them feel more comfortable and give them a sense of belonging, it shows all the girls that they are capable of anything. They can all teach, or share knowledge, and everything they have to say is important. That confidence stays with them as they eventually move into the world of academia or work.
Of course, the benefits for corporations and enterprises go beyond inspiring girls in their communities. As well as ensuring a steady stream of talent from diverse backgrounds, sponsoring girls in STEM groups and other grassroots organisations helps companies hit corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets. This double win hopefully encourages more companies to support today’s girls in tech to become the women in tech of tomorrow, creating a more diverse and therefore more effective workforce to solve the problems of the future.