By Helen Bohorquez
Some say tech has a women problem. Others, like the New York Times, call it “technology’s man problem.” But no matter who is to blame, one thing is glaring clear: the lack of females in the technology field.
The statistics do seem to support the gloomy argument. Women earned 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in 2008, but only 18 percent held computer and information science degrees, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Moreover, women leave tech companies at twice the rate of men, with almost 56 percent of them looking for jobs in government or non-profit organizations.
However, just because a woman is not the cofounder or CEO of a multibillionaire company, doesn’t mean that she is not participating in the tech industry to some extent.
“I think women are powerful contributors to tech teams, but I think their professional goals are often different from their male counterparts,” said Aurelia Moser, a 2014 Knight-Mozilla Fellow developer and librarian, who is also the leader of the Girl Develop It New York City chapter, an organization that empowers women interested in software development. “In my own professional life, I’ve sought out roles that are fulfilling and work that is challenging, and that at least to this point, hasn’t aligned with being on the board of a social media company, or in another management or entrepreneurial position often equated with ‘success’ in our profession.”
The tech industry seems to concentrate on why there aren’t more women in higher positions in startups. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, are just two known examples of women who have climbed to the top rungs of the ladder. They belong to a small number of women holding corporate officer positions at technology companies: 10 percent, according to the NCWIT.
But women also comprise 34 percent of web developers; 23% of programmers; 37% of software developers; and 15% of information security analysts, according a 2012 population survey by the Department of Labor. And as the technology industry becomes one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., the country also has the best environment to promote female entrepreneurship in the world, ranking #1 among 17 countries in a recent study by the Gender-Global Entrepreneurship Development Index.
“I think the opportunity to be a pioneer in your field is really exciting. The rush and adrenaline of being the only female presenter at a conference can be nerve-racking but also really wonderful for inspiring other females in the field,” said Moser. “Plus, it feels great to work at the bleeding edge of some of the most exciting things happening in our digital landscape these days; any job that inspires you to continuously learn and upset your status quo, as tech often does, is often fulfilling and continuously engaging.”
In New York, the tech scene has a notorious gender imbalance, – as men outnumber women 7 to 3, according to report commissioned by the New York City Tech Ecosystem. However, there are multiple organizations trying to attract more girls and women to tech.
Besides Girl Develop It, which has 26 national chapters and provides affordable coding classes, as well as mentorship, organizations such as Women Innovate Mobile, Women 2.0, Girls Who Code, and New York Tech Women, are working to introduce women to technology and entrepreneurship while fostering an egalitarian atmosphere in the industry, one that will also take advantage of the 1.4 million total new computing-related job openings that the Department of Labor estimates will emerge by 2018.
“It’s a lot easier to persevere when you see others like you doing the same, so I think all of the women/girls/kids in tech programs are trying to build that network of strong role models for posterity,” said Moser. “Building mentorship programs is a step beyond providing curriculum, which I think helps further combat the speed bumps to tech-involvement among under-represented groups.”
However, Moser looks forward to the day when the need for these programs to exist disappears.
“The numbers are growing, and education for young girls and women is progressive and promising,” said Moser. I’m happy to be a part of that movement, and will be happier when the movement is no longer necessary.”