Businesswoman sitting in chair at a conference table

Providing a Boost to Women in Tech

2 Mar 2016 by Teresa Meek

International Women's Day is March 8, and this year’s theme is a pledge for parity in the workplace.

Nowhere is the push more needed than in the tech industry, where the percentage ofwomen in computer-related jobs dropped from 35% in 1990 to 26% in 2013, according to a 2015 American Association of University Women (AAUW) report.

Though more than half of biological scientists are now women, when it comes to coding and IT, the picture is more bleak. At Google, just 17% of tech jobs go to women. At Facebook, it’s 15%. At Twitter, it’s just 10%.

Social stigma and a lack of mentors in the formative middle-school and high-school years put women behind by the time they reach college. Hiring discrimination may also play a part. Whatever the reasons, hiring managers are doing their companies a disservice when women — who make up over half the population — aren’t contributing to product design and business strategy. Companies with the most women on management teams have a 34% higher return on investment (ROI) than those with few or no women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Large tech companies are starting to take steps to remedy the situation. Intel has pledged $300 million to build a more diverse workforce. Apple is giving $50 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to increase the presence of women and minorities in tech. Netflix, Facebook, Google and Amazon have all extended their parental leave policiesin a race to attract and retain women.

But, for now, working in tech is a lonely experience for women, who sometimes feel like they’re crashing a boys’ club. A new study found that 60% say they have experienced unwanted sexual advances.

Resources

Fortunately, there are resources for women working in tech or contemplating a career in the sector. Here are some good places to start:

Girls Develop It  provides affordable programs for adult women of any age and income level to learn Web and software development in a “judgment-free environment.” Classes in JavaScript, Git/Github, HTML/CSS and more are held in 52 cities across the country.

National Center for Women & Technology offers programs for girls and women at every stage of learning or career. An Aspirations in Computing program provides learning opportunities, networking, and virtual and in-person meet-ups, as well as access to scholarships, internships and jobs. A Counselors for Computing program helps school counselors steer young women toward education and careers in computing. Other programs help university computer-science programs attract women, and encourage women to set goals and stick to them.

Women Techmakers, working with Google to launch global and regional programs to empower women in tech, has held more than 200 events in 52 countries. Here's what is planned for 2016.

Women Who Tech provides help for women technology entrepreneurs, hosting national and regional challenges where women pitch their ventures to investors before a live audience. It offers prizes ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, and consultations with investors and startup services.

Women in Technology (WIT) Education Foundation supports programs to get girls and women excited about STEM fields, including small-group mentoring at high schools to introduce young women to technology careers and events hosting women who have successfully incorporated technology into their careers.

Society of Women Engineers has been around since 1950 and offers a host of educational opportunities, scholarships and networking resources to its 30,000 members. It also hosts awards and sponsors public policy initiatives.

MotherCoders is a San Francisco organization that helps women with children learn basic coding, get an overview of the tech industry, and network with peers and industry professionals. Currently it operates in the Bay Area only. Women who live elsewhere can check out their programs and consider starting similar organizations in other locations.

Girls Rule Foundation is a leader in empowerment, leadership and educational workshops for girls ages 12-18 to help them become our next generation of leaders. Its dreamLABS program gives young women everything they need to lead a 16-week afterschool club, including the materials and guidance to complete one community service project for a Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) cause. The foundation’s Shine Brightly Mother Daughter Summit is a daylong education and empowerment summit that focuses on self-esteem, dreams, education and STEM. Currently, it operates in Phoenix, Arizona, only. And the Wings to Fly program is a seven-day leadership camp in June that focuses on leadership, entrepreneurship, STEM and creativity. It’s by application only and limited to 18 young women. Learn more and check the website in late February for applications.