Author: Ellis Blevins, Founder of Fluid Consulting
Here is a stat that, if you are a female or care about one, might make you weep: Today in the United States, only 14% of engineers are women. The fact is, not enough girls are attracted to technology and science at a young age, and we lose them before they even get started. Girls lose confidence in math and science at around age eight, and this is a detriment to our whole society. Having a diversified tech team that includes women allows companies to build products with a much-needed perspective that will lead to even more innovation.
But here is the rub – women don’t feel included in the engineering world. They can’t envision themselves working in this world when they hardly see images of other women technologists. But, there are those of us that are in the tech world and are fighting to bring more women into it. Why did I get into tech? Well, that’s actually a long and interesting story better told at a different time, but the fact is, I made it, and I know other women can, too. And I know that without a doubt, your company will flourish with more women working on your technology.
The single biggest mistake we can all make is to assume girls aren’t interested. This is simply not true. So here are some of the top ways to engage and encourage more girls and women to get into technology (because ladies – it is never too late to start a new role in the tech world!) With just 2% of women choosing a math or science degree at University, it is time we start fighting harder.
1. Start young, and immerse them into a tech world in which they can see themselves
Girls Who Code is an amazing organization that inspires women to pursue computer science by exposing them to real-life and on-screen role models. They offer a 7-week immersion program for female high school juniors and seniors which basically embeds them in a technology setting complete with training and mentorship to give these girls the confidence to continue along a computer science path.
Immersing girls helps by allowing them to see that they are not alone. They aren’t weird, and they don’t have to fit the “computer nerd” stereotype to be successful in technology. Programs like Girls Who Code, and products like Goldieblox, are the building blocks (pun intended) to encourage and illuminate for girls at a young age that STEM subjects aren’t just for boys! But girls have to be able to relate to it, or they won’t be into it.
Remember that every technology position is not that of a developer – if coding isn’t your girl’s cup of tea, there is Product Owner, Scrum Master, Technical Support and Business Analyst. The list of technology involved positions is long and varied.
2. Change the conversation
As an advocate for women in technology, I talk about the subject frequently on social media. And I am not the only one. But the reality is, there aren’t enough of us talking about it. Among Facebook and Pinterest, women are the majority of users. They are already a captive audience, so we might as well try to reach them through it!
There are certainly many roadblocks for women getting into a male-dominated field. From sexual harassment to alienation, to general distrust and lack of respect, women have a lot to overcome in the tech field. We have to change the conversation from “boys will be boys” to “no this is not acceptable behavior and women are not going to take it anymore!” As idealistic as it sounds, this isn’t an impossible task. We need a solid support system for women to let them know they are not alone and continue to show the positive aspects of women being in technology on our society as a whole. The more the word gets out, the better off we all will be.
3. Make female-friendly workplaces
Newsflash – family-friendly workplaces aren’t just for women anymore. More and more men are taking on child rearing roles, and I for one think this is fantastic! But, I am a realist and I know that women are still the primary caretaker of kids and the household. But let’s get one thing clear – this doesn’t mean that women aren’t invested in their career. They can be in love with their career and their kids. I know because I am. Having a career, kids, and a household to juggle has made me more efficient and productive. It’s a survival tactic that many women have perfected, and this can benefit your company! But you have to consider ways to keep those women workers invested and happy.
Just a few perks can drastically help bring more women in the door. Benefits like flexible hours, work from home days, on-site childcare, and generous leave don’t have to cost a company much, but they sure will make your workers’ (honestly, of both genders) more happy and more productive.
This is a subject I care passionately about, and I would be happy to discuss other ways you can encourage females to enter technology roles. Please leave a comment below and give me your ideas as well!