Technology has not helped bridge the gender gap
For a long time, technology has been known as the field of the future. Nearly every day, there is breaking news about some new gadget, app or other piece of technology that works to solve a problem in society. However, like most industries, technology has not bridged the gender gap.
In an effort to change this, about 8,000 technology enthusiasts descended into the Valley of the Sun for the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing — nearly double the amount of attendees for last year’s conference.
With executives, students and other key players hailing from 67 different countries and representing 925 organizations, the growth of attendees since last year — 68 percent to be exact — is only one marker of how the campaign for women in technology and computing is on the rise globally.
Holding true to late co-founder Dr. Anita Borg’s vision of inspiring and connecting women around the world to embrace technology, the conference has become the largest global gathering of women technologists since its establishment in 1994.
Borg, also the founder of the online computing community Systers and the Institute for Women and Technology, worked for most of her life to include women from around the world in the technological revolution. And today, the Anita Borg Institution is continuing to carry out her will of global connection and identifying global leaders.
“Our reach is increasingly global and that’s what we want,” Jody Mahoney, vice president of corporate partnerships at the Anita Borg Institute, said. “We want to see these conferences and communities build outside of the United States.”
The Anita Borg Institute is set to host its fifth Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing India in November in an effort to inspire women in computing across the world.
“Funding is crucial, but we need to think how we all connect together as well because we really learn from each other,” Odeh said. “Women are embracing technology and we do have growth, we just need this kind of organization; it would be tremendous.”
According to Oden, 90 percent of students enrolled in computer science in Saudi Arabia are women and 35 percent of entrepreneurs in Jordan are women. However, without proper mentoring and support, it’s difficult to advance, she added.
“The problem is that when they leave the university and they go into the workforce, there’s discrimination the same as (in the United States),” Odeh said.
In the U.S., only 26 percent of the 2013 computing workforce were women, with five percent being Asian, three percent being African American and two percent were Hispanic, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
Along with this, between 2000 and 2012, there has been a drop of 64 percent in the number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science, the NCWIT reported.
“The enrollment in computer science is not the same everywhere and that has to be part of the conversation we bring up,” Odeh said.
Due to the low enrollment rates of women interested in computer science, the gender gap remains wide open when it comes to the amount of women employed at tech companies.
At big-name brands like Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo!, women make up 30 percent, 39 percent and 37 percent of the company’s workforce, respectfully, according to the Washington Post.
Of the women who work at Google, 48 percent hold non-technology related jobs and 21 percent work in leadership, leaving only 17 percent working in technology.
So, how do we get girls to code and become leaders in technology?
The answer may be as simple as introducing them to coding at a young age and creating an environment of support and resources, Mahoney said.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that leadership training starts younger and younger now,” Mahoney said. “(Organizations) really are working at identifying leaders and beginning to develop them as young girls.”
Groups such as Girls Who Code, Girl Develop It and Black Girls Code provide children with coding instruction and resources at an early age in order to pursue them to look into other opportunities in the computing field.
Read: Tech Girls ROCK!
Besides code-focused groups, organizations such as Girl Scouts and Google are working to close the gender gap.
In June, Google launched Made with Code, a $50-million initiative that supports marketing campaigns and projects to bring education in computer science to girls. The program will invite teenage girls to create projects such as gifs, digital soundtracks and 3D design in Google’s “Blocky” visual programming editor.
Along with this, Women Techmakers, a professional organization at Google, is working to increase the visibility of women currently in the technology field.
“It’s not that we aren’t here, it’s that people can’t see us,” Natalie Villalobos, a Women in Technology advocate at Google, said. “A lot of women are on a non-traditional learning path. It’s about looking at the insights of what are the ways women are carving paths for themselves and how can we help them trail blaze.”
Graphics courtesy of Google, the National Center for Women and Information in Technology and the Anita Borg Institute.