Women in Technology Careers
Technology is occupying an increasingly larger part of our everyday life, both at work and outside it. The IT sector is perhaps the biggest recruiter today with a still unsatiated hunger for fresh talent and yet, the number of women opting for a tech career is depressingly low. There are a number of factors at play here but the root of the problem is in traditional gender stereotypes and cultural expectations.
Boys play with cars, girls play with dolls. Despite the huge progress the developed world has made toward gender equality, some stereotypes are very hard to erase, and the “proper” choice of career seems to be one of the most unyielding to change. A recent study has uncovered surprising facts about girls’ performance in science subjects at school as compared to boys, that seriously undermine the traditional view that it’s boys who are better suited for a tech career. In fact, it seems, girls are often better than boys at science in school, but equally often they choose not to pursue a science or technology career because, well, that’s not what’s expected of them. Of course, this is blunt speculation; there may be hundreds of other things that girls leaving school find more fascinating and rewarding than a career in IT, but still, we have just started to come out of a severe economic crisis, so how choosy can we be, especially if we’re good at something? It’s up to the academics to do their research and identify possible reasons for this state of affairs, but there is no question that cultural expectations will be among them.
Another persistent stereotype is of the nerd who fixes the computers at the office, made a cliche in no time by scores of TV and movie productions. It has quickly become obsolete but seems to linger in the minds of women who, although they might be interested in technology, would not like to be associated with such an image. What’s more, there are hardly any role models that we could look up to, and role models play an essential role at the start of our professional lives and not just then. Discarding such stereotypes and promoting a more realistic image of the IT professional is one way to fight against the gender disparity in the technology sector. This is something that tech companies themselves could, and should, do; promoting gender diversity will only benefit them in the long run, as numerous studies have shown that the more diverse a company is in terms of gender, the more profitable it is.
Stereotypes aside, little is being done to help matters at the ground level: primary school. The current amount and quality of programming training at US schools is completely inadequate, says the former chief of consumer payments at Google, Vikas Gupta, who has developed a pair of robots that teach kids as young as two to code without even being aware of it. It may be too late for adults, but the future will need even more tech-savvy employees, so why not start taking care of that now? As for those of us whose school days are long gone but we have always had an interest for gadgets and computers and have been discouraged continuously to pursue a career in the field, why not give it a shot? It’s never too late and a quick learner would be sure to reap the benefits of her bravery sooner than she expects. The IT sector is hiring, will you respond to its call?