On Friday March 8th, the world marked International Women’s Day. This event symbolically reaffirms society’s commitment to advancing the role of women across all facets of human endeavor.
In the technology sector, we continue to see more women taking on positions of leadership, supporting design and innovation, and helping to move ideas forward. Despite these achievements made over the past few decades, only a small fraction of today’s female college graduates in the United States are pursuing education in technical fields such as engineering or computer science. For example, despite women holding 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, they make up only 20 percent of those students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in computer science or engineering (source: Forbes and NSF). Why is it that very few women are going into tech each year?
Addressing the Need for More Women in Technology
Corporations, non-profits, and educational institutions need to play a larger role in promoting the development of technical skills and technology-oriented careers to help support and inspire female students to enter the field. We need to change the culture so that young women are inspired not only to use technology, but also to play a critical role in advancing its development.
The key question is, what types of strategies can corporate, non-profit, and education institutions employ to attract more women to the technology sector? The following are examples of initiatives that have been implemented across the three areas that may provide some additional inspiration and direction.
Microsoft is one of several technology companies that is keen to address the issue of a lack of women pursuing education and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of the company’s YouthSpark program, Microsoft founded DigiGirlz to provide high school girls with the opportunity to develop relevant technical skills through hands-on workshops and online classes, interact with Microsoft employees, and learn about potential careers in technology. The program is offered in the United States as well as in numerous countries across the globe.
To change the culture and perceptions of STEM careers amongst female students, several non-profits have emerged to help make careers in technology more appealing for this cohort. Organizations such as Girlstart and Girls Who Code offer a range of initiatives that include summer camps, after school programs, conferences, mentorship, and instructional material intended to introduce STEM concepts to young female students.
In the educational sector, MIT has implemented a Women’s Technology Program to spark interest amongst young women in high school in the areas of engineering and computer science. This comprises of a four week summer and residential program whereby 11th grade female students explore engineering through hands on experience obtained in labs, projects and in the classroom.