Empowering Women in Technology
Why is it that the technology field is so male-dominated? Why don’t many women consider a profession in technology?
“Women are told over and over again that the tech world is a male-dominated place,” said Joyce Chen, a sophomore at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Joyce feels that this stereotype of male-domination in the technology industry makes women less likely to pursue a career in that field.
“I think more women, and [men], would go into the field if they understood that computer science is a creative field with real potential for changing the world,” said Amy Quispe, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. Quispe expressed concern that the problem may be a lack of knowledge about the field of technology itself. The technology field is creative and powerful, however the perpetuation of stereotypes, such as that the industry is ‘only for nerds’, may send the opposite message. This lack of knowledge about the industry may be the root of the problem.
Many leaders in the technology industry have asked themselves why more women aren’t a part of the technology industry, and are doing their part to encourage women to consider the technology industry through a variety of outreach programs, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held in Baltimore, Maryland last year, and Square’s Code Camp, in San Francisco, California. Attendees of these conferences leave feeling empowered and ready to encourage other females in the technology field to go out and make a difference.
The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is an event that allows women in computing to gather and share both research and career interests through a series of conferences. They day before attending the conference in Baltimore, Maryland, junior Olivia Kotsopoulos at Wellesley College attended a different co-ed computer science conference in Innsbruck, Austria. Kotsopoulos mentioned that only one of every ten attendees was a woman. “To go from a conference which -- realistically speaking -- accurately portrayed the gender imbalance in today’s computer science community to a gathering meant to celebrate the achievements of female programmers was nothing short of refreshing,” Kotsopoulos said. She mentioned the valuable networking opportunities with other women in the tech industry, all of whom were eager to help young female programmers in any way they could - “Upon leaving the celebration, I felt secure knowing that so many accomplished women who didn’t even know me were invested in my future,” Kotsopoulos said.
Similarly, Square, a San Francisco based startup that creates credit card readers for mobile devices, hosted Code Camp, a three day series of workshops for top female engineering students this past January. Throughout the three days at Square, the Code Camp contest winners attended coding workshops and mentorship sessions, toured the San Francisco area, were exposed to a startup environment, and gained an invaluable opportunity to learn and expand upon their skills. “I definitely want to do more to help empower women in the science and technology fields,” said Joy Ming, one of the 17 Code Camp contest winners and a sophomore at Harvard University, “Code Camp is a testament to how small steps in simply introducing women to technology can produce results and achievement together.” Ming spoke highly of the other Code Campers that she met and is looking forward to working alongside them in the technology industry.
Several other companies are also doing their part to promote women in technology, and it’s going a long way. Mike McGee, the co-founder of The Starter League, an organization that teaches beginners how to code, says that the ratio of women to men students at The Starter League is still not fifty-fifty, but it’s been growing. “During our first quarter, only eleven percent of our students were women. Fast forward to Spring 2013, all of our classes are closer to forty percent women. Each quarter the number of women in our program increases,” said McGee. The goal of The Starter League is to create a non-intimidating environment where people from any gender or ethnicity can learn to code web applications. “By showing success stories, other people become motivated, ” McGee said.
By welcoming women into the technology industry, perhaps the ratio of women to men will become more balanced.