Encouragement of women to be the leaders in STEM-related fields is an important goal for the tech industry, even although progress has been slow at best over the last two decades or more.
A large part of this is because of the deeply ingrained belief that women aren’t adept at math and sciences, despite the falsehood of this belief and the long-running history of successful female researchers. Please think of the pioneering thinkers of the past like Katherine Johnson, Marie Curie, and Ada Lovelace, who was not only one of the first women to create a computer program, but the first person to accomplish it in 1843, not less.
Missed Opportunity in the Economy Opportunity
That makes the absence of women’s representation in the vital area of programming all the more concerning. According to Women in Tech advocate Helena Gagern recently noted in an article published in Better Programming, the absence of female programmers constitutes a significant hit to gender equality and represents an important missing opportunity in the technology sector.
With Facebook having greater than 1.7 billion active users (slightly just under half them female, as per Statista) and Google has more than 3.8 million search queries per minute, it’s clear that women comprise an overwhelming portion of technology users of today. Within the U.S., 93 percent of women access the internet. Still, less attention is given to how women view technology differently than men. Developing services specifically for women can boost the profit of non-tech giants and tech giants alike.
In this light, it is evident that the statistics are not very encouraging. About 26% of the tech workforce is female, and within the field of software mainly, the proportion of women engineers has grown by 2 percent over the last 20 years. A recent study by Opinium for PwC revealed a different troubling pattern. Although 64 percent of girls in preuniversity are enrolled in STEM courses, this figure is reduced to just 30% at the college level. Only 3 percent of students go on to pursue an engineering career.
Changes need to be implemented in the education system to encourage more enthusiasm for science, particularly in the last phases of instruction. Roxanne Hughes, who is a researcher in the department of physics at Florida State University, says one of the most significant issues has been that instructors, women, and men tend to ignore evidence that girls could be adept at tasks such as programming and frequently discourage confidence, assertiveness, and other attributes necessary for pursuing this dream, while at the while encouraging the male pupils.
Mentors for women in Tech
Hughes states that her study of computing camps has shown that girls between the ages of 10 and 12 can begin to think of themselves as coders in as short as a week if they are exposed to various roles that exist within the field of programming and are guided and supported by people they regard as experts. To make this stick, however, teachers at all levels need to overcome their prejudices regarding women and technology to create passion and an understanding of belonging throughout the girls’ education journey and even into the workforce.
Although the pace of progress was slow in the past, the advantages of the growing participation of women in technological fields like coding haven’t been overlooked in the technology industry. Logitech is one example. The company recently joined forces together with advocacy organization Girls Who Code to support an array of programming for women in education. These include an immersive learning experience as well as internships and virtual events. Additionally, it was announced that the company would give a percentage of its profits from Master Series products to Girls Who Code. The company’s Delphine Donne-Crock pointed out that the purpose of the initiative isn’t just to boost the number of women in tech-related fields but also to establish an ecosystem of female creators who can navigate ever-changing career paths.
However, is it enough to make young women coders? Although there’s no problem with programming as a career, the reality is that technology will remain a predominantly male-dominated field until women gain entry into the upper levels of the corporate hierarchy. Assembling a team is one way to achieve this. However, another way is to create companies that will rule the world economy in the coming years.
Capital Concern: Raising Funds for Start-ups
Starting a technology company indeed requires capital and, it is evident that, as Allie Burns, CEO of Village Capital, showed recently, support for female-led companies is severely insufficient. According to a study by Pitchfork in the 3rd quarter of 2020 witnessed venture capital for female-led companies was the lowest over the last three years. However, it was much higher than the decline in companies led by men due to the crisis in COVID-19. Furthermore, in 2019, just 11 percent of the seed capital in emerging markets was devoted to businesses with women as founding members.
The theory is that this issue was to be addressed by introducing accelerators for start-ups, which are organizations specifically designed to provide entrepreneurs with seed capital. However, their effects have been highly adverse. Acceleration programs have helped funnel equity into male-dominated companies at 2.6 times that of female-led ones. At the same time, they’ve created debt for female-led businesses at 2.5 times that of companies led by men. The reason isn’t understood fully. Still, Burns suggests that it could be due to prejudices on the part of program managers who believe that men are more reliable in securing investment in the first place, whereas women carry more risk and should be confirmed by loans.
Perhaps the fascinating aspect of Burns’s study and work, conducted in collaboration with International Finance Corporation, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative, and the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab The most exciting thing is that these stereotypes remained even after more female managers were included in Acceleration programs. Thus, the path to equality between women and men in Tech depends on both genders gaining the ability to overcome their prejudices about women and technology.
In this context, programs such as Girls Who Code and Hughes Research at the University of Florida may be on the right path. But, as with weeds, the most effective method to eradicate gender discrimination could be to stop it from growing at all.