For how wonderful the technology industry overall is, it does have a glaring problem in the disparity between women and men in the field. Only 26% of all tech jobs are filled by women, a statistic that is difficult to see time and time again. Here in Michigan it was recently announced that Ford purchased Detroit’s historic train depot and plans to turn it into an autonomous and electric vehicle research center. How many of those 5,000 new tech jobs will be filled by women? As long as young women are encouraged in the field and resources continue to grow, the answer will hopefully be more than 26%.
While tech is a male-dominated field, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. To even the playing field for the long term, it will take strong encouragement of school-age girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers. STEM majors in colleges are up almost 50% in just six years, but only 18% of computer science graduates are women. That’s a problem.
By talking to girls in middle school or high school and nurturing any interest in technology, trends can be reversed. After all, 66% of females under the age of 12 are interested in computer science, but come time for college that number drops all the way to 4%. Luckily, one local group is taking charge. The Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation recently hosted 450 girls from Detroit for a day to learn about computer science, with plans to follow up with weeklong summer tech camps across the state. A movement of this caliber didn’t exist just a few years ago and provides hope for the future of women in tech.
A hopeful future is essential, but if you’re reading this right now you might be a female already in the IT industry. What resources exist for you?
Luckily, there are many. Women in technology are doing a phenomenal job of working together, lifting each other up, and helping each other’s careers. This is done in large part through groups, whether they are formal organizations or casual get togethers in Michigan and throughout the country. Women are coming together, sharing their experiences, and learning from each other. Since networking with other women in IT is vital to your career, here are some great organizations to check out:
Plugging yourself into one of the above organizations is a great way to connect with other technical women, and these groups often hold meetings, events, or conferences that provide a big boost to any technical resume. Whether associated with an above group or not, there are a vast number of events taking place in the industry that can truly provide learning and professional growth opportunities. They include:
Being surrounded by other women in technology is inspiring, and so is following the careers of successful industry women. While only 17% of Fortune 500 CIOs are female, there is no shortage of people to look up to and aspire to be like. Outside of the names we see in headlines, like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg or HP CEO Meg Whitman, there are countless success stories to get inspired by:
Michigan’s tech sector is an exciting one to be a part of, and women must be an equal part of it if Detroit, Grand Rapids, and surrounding communities are to continue thriving as tech hubs. Every individual, man or woman, inside or outside the industry, must encourage girls to follow their STEM interest. For women currently in tech, don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you or to those on the other side of your keyboard. Helpful resources and a strong support network are waiting for you.