By Tara Bailey
Google “Women in the Tech Industry,” and you’ll find no shortage of articles showing how statistics on women in the technology industry are getting worse. But is the future for women in technology really that dim?
Women only represent somewhere between 10 to 30 percent of professionals in the technology industry, depending on what is being surveyed.1 Even worse, their numbers are shrinking. In an age where everything is going digital and technology jobs are on the rise, why then, is the percentage of women in the tech industry dropping?
If you ask me, Barbie may have something to do with it. Mattel released a book in 2010 called Barbie: I can Be A Computer Engineer. The book portrays Barbie designing a video game but depending on the help of her male friends to turn it into a “real” game. While this book is not responsible for the decrease of females in the tech industry, it illustrates the strong stereotypes that women face. These stereotypes are causing women to become frustrated and ultimately leave the profession.
Breaking the Stereotypes
While cultural stereotypes still exist in the workplace, they’re not impenetrable. There are plenty of success stories, including those where women head major technology companies, among the ranks of IBM, Yahoo, YouTube, and Hewlett Packard.
Underneath these success stories you’ll find how diversity initiatives have made a difference and are making strides in the industry. If tech companies can continue to stress the importance of diversity and foster an inclusive, respectful working environment, we should continue to see forward progress.
A Bright Future
For women to thrive in the tech industry, breaking through the cultural stereotypes won’t be enough. Girls must be encouraged at a young age to take an interest in technology, and this starts with opening doors. Code.org is one of several programs out there that seeks to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women. Over the past few years, they have succeeded in adding Computer Science (CS) curriculum to high schools and encouraging young girls’ participation. They have successfully effected policy change in 16 states by making CS courses eligible towards high school graduation.2
Through growing opportunities and encouragement, the future can be bright for women in technology. It has been predicted that 1.4 million computer science jobs will be available by 2020, but only 400,000 graduates would be available to fill the openings.3 With the proper educational and social influences, women can capitalize on these gaps and find increased opportunity for redefining their role in an industry laden with stereotypes.