While women make up 57% of the workforce in the United States, a staggeringly small percentage of the workforce can be found in the technology sector. The sector is pretty broadly defined, so to hear that only 25% are women in tech positions shows that this industry is still pretty heavily dominated by males.
The number of women in tech has been dwindling over the years, even though the sector itself is growing exponentially. Women have made astonishing contributions to the fields of science and technology for decades, but their contributions are often overlooked by history. It is for this reason that this sector is due for a truly disruptive awakening.
The First Step Is Acknowledging the Problem
In a Forbes article that focuses on outlining the barriers for women in technology fields, we found some troubling statistics. For instance, 50% of women leave STEM careers within 12 years with the statistics becoming even direr for women of color. As the article explains, we as a society need to change our way of thinking on several levels to address the disparity women experience in all sectors, not just technology.
As technology such as artificial intelligence grows, we are already seeing how it is affected when there is a lack of diversity in the building of these systems. If unconscious bias is programmed into these systems, it could have disastrous results. The same is true for all of the other areas of technology. To prevent the gap of inequality from growing, it is imperative we address this issue head-on.
The Second Step is Finding Solutions
At this point, tech is not a meritocracy. Success for women in this field will depend on who you know and a certain level of privilege. While that is not much different from what men experience with climbing corporate ladders, the stigmas women must overcome are often more ingrained.
To overcome these stigmas, the approach is often to set a quota on how many women or minorities should be hired in a company to promote diversity. But, one of the worst things any leader can do for your employees is to reduce them down to a statistic. Don’t set quotas on how many women should be on the team. This could lead to hiring in haste. Instead, aim for truly changing the culture within the company.
Get Creative with Growth Opportunities
Encourage non-linear career paths and continuing education, as well. If you have a great secretary who dreams of something more, help her get the knowledge she needs to be promoted to another position within the company. As the digitization of companies accelerates, encourage her to pursue other skills, through accelerated training programs like coding bootcamps. There is an increasing number of scholarship opportunities for women in tech, so encourage her or other female peers to take advantage of them.
Above all, do not let your voice be silenced. Know your self-worth. Speak up, raise your hand, push down the fear and move forward. Start with where you are and don’t stop. Help one another by building each other up.
Business relies on teamwork and if you can get to a role where you are the leader, then give more women a helping hand and be a “shero”. Just make sure you don’t exclude men from the teamwork equation. It’s not about putting one gender at the expense of another, it’s about leveling the field.