This week Jen Cheng sparked an intelligent discussion on her blog by asking: Why Are There So Few Women in Tech?. Women and men shared their views, experiences and wisdom from a variety fields. It’s clear that only a small percentage of young women are choosing to earn technical degrees, so there are few women applicants for technical jobs. In my experience, teams that involve both men and women tend to be more effective, more innovative than teams dominated by only one gender. We bring out the best in each other. Being the problem-solver that I am, though, it got me thinking: how do we get more women to choose careers in technology?
It all comes down to public relations. The technology sector has many creative, team-oriented, meaningful career options, but that’s often not the public perception. For example, when I was there, the EA Sports studio in Canada had a disproportionately high percentage of women in senior leadership positions from the Studio COO to the General Manager to the most senior Technical Director to a number of Development Directors who run the game productions. However, the public perception of women’s roles in the video game industry is often quite different.
More progressive companies with positive public and workplace images need to get their women and men involved in their schools and communities to educate parents, teachers and students on what it is really like to work in the technology sector. Companies need to partner with local universities and colleges to develop programs to show high school students, and even younger, that creating technology is as fun and rewarding as using it. This needs to be directed at both boys and girls equally to encourage a gender balance. Teachers and parents also need to be included, so the message is consistent. A few years ago, my team and I were industry speakers at a Saturday Tech Trek run by the Computer Science Department at the University of British Columbia. We had a lot of fun showing the students that building video games is a lot more than just sitting around and playing all day. Even more fun, though, was the discussion with the parents while the students were doing their hands-on lab. When a programming Technical Director shared his thoughts on the creativity of writing code being the same as the creativity of writing a novel for him, it generated an active discussion on the creative process. Programs like Tech Trek are a win-win partnership for industry and universities because they encourage enrollment, which results in training the next generation of employees.
However, the initiatives have to go beyond the classrooms. Students who attend these programs already have some interest in math, science and technology. As a result, these programs alone will only go so far in increasing the gender balance in these fields. I would love to see the mainstream media showing more of the funny, fascinating, well-rounded kind of people I know in science and technology professions. There are a couple of examples. Let’s see more!
I know there are many university and corporate initiatives happening in many communities around the world. What have you seen or done to encourage young women to choose tech careers? For those of you in tech careers, who or what influenced you in making that choice?
- Solving the Pipeline Problem: How to Get More Women in Tech (thedailymuse.com)
- Wanted: Young women to work in high-tech sector (business.financialpost.com)
- You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: How to Get More Women in Tech (thedailymuse.com)
- Why This Woman Paused The Executive Raced
- How Do We Solve The Women In Tech Leadership Problem?