“As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in the field were women; by 2005 it was down to 22 percent, and sinking.”
Many of the fastest growing tech companies today are targeted to an overwhelming female market–think Pinterest, Groupon, Zygna. The truth is that to have a vibrant economy and long term tech innovation, women’s talents have to be utilized in software development and product creation. Yet there are few women making a career in software development– the great economic ‘muscle’ in the high value work world today and as far out in the future as we can see. Women are killing it in other areas–making massive strides in all other fields and professions, as their numbers dwindle in the computer sciences according to a recent article in the NYTimes.
In Giving Women the Access Code, Harvey Mudd President, Maria Klawe, and others, are working to change this by creating computer sciences programs that appeal to women. College is the time to both understand the breath of what one is able to learn and do, but also understand the external value proposition of their work. The same transformation needs to happen in the field. I know many women who have excelled in engineering or computer science education programs, but left these fields after a few years due to dysfunctional environments that had nothing to do with the actual work responsibilities.
We need to do three things:
1) Revolutionize the teaching of computer sciences and software development, especially with the newer platforms available, to draw in women of all ages, both through university settings such as Harvey Mudd and the other great CS schools and the growing non-university education platforms, such as Codecademy and Udemy.
2) Recreate software/product development environments, from man caves with man rules to women inclusive environments. I know many amazingly bright women engineers/CS who have left the field, as ‘life is too short to live this way.’ Its not that hard to do–just takes some insight, open-mindedness and a willingness to make changes.
3) Investors should insist on women on the team, when entrepreneurs pitch a company with even a 50% women’s market. Many of today’s companies have predominant women’s markets, yet no women on the team?! Come on! This is not rocket science! Over the last few years I’ve heard dozens of pitches from young tech guys developing products for women-predominant markets that haven’t a clue about the market they’re looking to serve. This often doesn’t preclude them for blowing through money–lots of money. They have unlimited research but still don’t ‘get’ it. Women around the table, women in the scrum meetings makes you stronger and ‘derisks’ your ventures.
Good for Maria Klawe and others like her–it’s just the beginning of what’s to be done….
- Should everyone learn to program? And by everyone I mean women (annezelenka.com)
- Solving the Pipeline Problem: How to Get More Women in Tech (thedailymuse.com)