|What's the right answer?|
Yes, I believe in equal opportunity.
Yes, I am more than grateful for women's rights.
No, I do not want you to hire me just because I am female in a technology career.
What I want you to do is support initiatives which encourage girls to become interested in technology to increase the female applicant pool out there.
Over the weekend USA Today reported about "Testosterone Valley." In the article, Google came under fire because of the disproportionate demographics of it's employees, reporting 83% male and 17% female. The article explains how women and minorities are at a constant disadvantage due to the lack of computer science access and education. Because of this unsettling reality, one has to ask, " should Google (or any other company) hire employees based on their sex and not entirely their skills?"
Honestly, I feel this an unfair headline. We know that scandal sells, so I see why it was front page news. For the record, Google is one of the first tech companies to even report these numbers, so it's apparent that they want to take measures to make some adjustments. But, all in all, this is old news, women have been behind the game when it comes to careers in technology for some time. While I believe keeping the awareness alive is important, it's more effective to take positive action and promote change.
Here is what I have experienced in my male dominated career and my commitment to STEM/STEAM programs.
- Interest gap: I'm starting with this issue, because the math speaks volumes. Many girls are not interested in technology. There are reasons for this. I keep reading all these articles which share data about females who view STEM careers as far too masculine and social pressures deter them into other career avenues. Women represent about 24% of the STEM (science, technology engineering and mathematics) workforce (according to the Department of Commerce's Women in STEM.) As far as computer science jobs, women only hold about 27% of the jobs out there, and the number doesn't appear to be growing. Maybe this is why, male students are 3 times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers compared to female students.
- Skills gap: Despite the fact that girls have been outperforming boys in math and science for some time, there is a discrepancy with girls and their performance in computer science. Even if they take the computer science class in HS, many are still not taking the AP exam. In a recent study, only 20% of females took the computer science AP exam out of 30,000 students. How can they improve their skills if they do not continue to learn the ever-changing technology curriculum? Companies cannot hire employees who do not fit the skill qualifications for the job, plain and simple.
- Blame game: Bring about change, not blame. No need to blame Google or the whole male population. Blaming schools doesn't necessarily solve the problem, either. I hear parents say, "I am so disappointed my school doesn't offer (insert whatever program they want)." Well, then take action! It's the 21st century, folks, there are thousands of resources at our fingertips. Find someone who can start an after school club, seek out funding, create a think tank of people who are interested in developing programs for girls to raise awareness and interest in the areas of technology. Start small and grow big.
- Change is coming: Good news: there are girls out there excited about technology. I think what needs to continually change is offering a wide variety of technology programs for girls. Many schools start with robotics and coding, but for girls who are really 'girly', sometimes that is just not appealing. Having a balance and breaking down stereotypes is key. Making technology programs and clubs diverse enough to the diverse girl population is where it's at! Also having female technology teachers and role models who exert the passion and excitement the digital world can bring, is beyond important. No one wants to listen to a "Charlie Brown" teacher stand up and cover Technology 101, especially not girls.
The technology jobs are there for all. We need to continue moving in the direction of providing opportunities for girls to see how incredibly interesting our world is through the digital lens.
But, I still don't want you to hire me because I am a female.
I want you to hire me because I am the best person for the job.
If you are a company who really cares about having a gender diverse employee population then back those who are starting and developing programs to encourage our female youth. Open their eyes to see how amazing technology can be now and in their future.
Learning technology should never be this boring!