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How to Get More Women in Tech

Fun Fact: The fourth listing on Google found when you search “minorities in tech” (without quotations) is: “Technologies found in Minority Report.” Looks like people really enjoyed that movie…and there aren’t many minorities in tech.

And yes, while we have made headway with funneling some capitol to startups. Dave Mcclure’s stance in TechCrunch is a more “put money where your mouth is” approach on catalyzing women in tech, rather than sitting around and talking about it. But the problem with this approach is that we can’t dole out investor money to tech minorities that don’t exist.

Our nation needs to incentivize and encourage minorities to pursue a career in STEM from a young age. Tech careers can be intimidating, and if young women aren’t exposed to things like programming at a young age, they will probably be hesitant to dive in when they are older.

To quote Girls Who Code, (a new org funded by Twitter to educate adolescent girls in engineering and tech):

“Today, just 3.6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and less than 10% of venture capital-backed companies have female founders. Yet females use the internet 17% more than their male counterparts and represent the fastest growing demographic online and on mobile, creating more than two-thirds of content on social networking sites. Technology companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment, and companies with women on technical teams increases teams’ problem-solving ability and creativity.

The numbers speak for themselves. By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of computer science degrees are awarded to women.”

The good news is:

For adult women and minorities, the barriers to entry as becoming less and less. I learned HTML/CSS through a few books and some Youtube tutorials. There are free tutorials and sites that can help you get your feet wet with whatever code you are interested in learning. In fact the worldwide organization, Railsgirls, conducts weekend-long programming events, equipped with hard/software and personal “coaches” to get you started with Rails (AKA Ruby on Rails, the web code derived from just plain ol’ Ruby). Resources, like Codeacademy.com offer FREE self-driven lessons to learn anything from HTML to Python.

More and more of these resources are popping up that are making software development more approachable. Who knows what we could create with a realistically represented pool of developers and designers working together.

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Martha Garvey

I saw this IgniteNYC talk about “How to Increase the Number of Women in Tech in Under a Minute.” I agree with her–and I am also a big fan of the fantastic Girl Develop IT, a group that has been teaching women tech for years and just recently became a non-profit. I’ll post more later, but give a listen.

Cat Robinson

Really interesting video Martha, thanks. I think the biggest take away for me was “Don’t apologize for yourself.” Being confident when you are the minority in the field takes a degree of self assuredness. The thing to remind oneself though, is that confidence can be a catalyst for good work, because you are then determined to find a solution (and not excuse yourself) from the task at hand…Which then breeds more confidence…it’s cyclical.

Tracy Letch

Hi Cat,

I agree with your statement “Our nation needs to incentivize and encourage minorities to pursue a career in STEM from a young age” and have in the past followed programs for girls to promote STEM. It is a concern because I am raising a daugther, and while in school researching the topic found that a high percentage of girls lose interest in science at a much younger age than boys. I think the question is after your comment too how do we make studying STEM topics fun for girls? Furthermore when we look at boys toys, airplanes fly, boats are motorized, and can be controlled remotely just as an example a minature Barbie car (dolls fit in) is hardly worth driving, wheels don’t turn enough, they are not not remote….and if so now, not in comparison to boys toys. There are several areas in the manufacture of toys for boys and girls that differs so I ask does that have anything to do with it? Yes, this is simplistic and probably sounds dumb, but learning should be fun and engaging and the engineing and robotics etc. for both genders should be equal.

Allan Silberstein

If we would make Tech subjects relevant to women’s lives they would enter these fields. This sounds simplistic but sometimes simple is best.


Martha Garvey

I agree with all of this. I am actually volunteering with a local hackerspace to propose a kids’ informal science curriculum. Based on a conversation I had with four tween girls, I have pitched the following: “The Science of ‘Twilight.'” I am not kidding about this, especially after one of the girls said to me, “Magic is easy. Science is hard.” Ahem.

Cat Robinson

That hackerspace sounds awesome. “Informal science” and informal education in general is becoming more and more prevalent with social media. Weaving in STEM subjects to everyday life with your children can be a great way to spark interest. (e.g. That satellites communicate when your family is using GPS to road-trip to grandma’s house).

We do need to find ways to make STEM more appealing for young girls. And more importantly, when a young girl initiates interest in STEM…encourage, encourage, encourage. I formerly worked as a program coordinator for the a charter school in DC and my job was to bring in professionals in STEM to speak about their careers. If young women have role models to emulate, then they are more likely to stick with STEM when the going gets tough. If you are a minority in tech, talk about it.