Eleftheria Batsou - Women in tech

Over the past few years, we've been hearing a lot about "women in technology" and there is a good reason for that. Computer science is a growing field, one in which we desperately need more top talent and one in which women can’t be left behind.

 

Amber Reyngoudt, a software engineer at Milk Inc., says one of the most compelling reasons we need more women: “Inspiring a new generation of women to learn computer science empowers female entrepreneurs to come up with unique solutions to new problems.”

 

Let’s clarify that we are not only speaking about women in tech but about a larger group, which is none other than STEM (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math but there's usually a particular emphasis on computer science). We include “Girls Who Code”, “Black Girls Code”, “TechGirlz”, “IGNITE™ (Inspiring Girls Now In Technology Evolution)”, “GITs” (Girls in Technology), “WIT” (Women in Technology) and any other group which feels it should be in.

 

I believe that we need more females in STEM fields and I support the individuals and organizations that are striving to break down barriers and create opportunities to improve the gender balance in technology fields.

 

The problem

The issue isn’t women themselves, women want to break into tech, but rather the sexist culture, predominantly male environments, and biased practices.

 

Although women are told that they are just as capable, intelligent and valuable as the men in their field, they constitute an overlooked, unheard, unrepresented group with little power to change their status. Are women a ninja-rockstar or a poor-victim?! Are women good-enough or they got the job/the promotion/the new paycheck because they are equals with their male colleagues?!

 

Why should companies care about this?

I will name only a few of them, the ones that I personally find more important:

  • • Diversity is a good and healthy thing.

  • • Hiring managers should want a balance of gender, age, ethnicity, and other qualities to make sure the teams are approaching problems holistically and creating solutions that are going to meet the needs of all kinds of people.

  • • Researches suggest that women help make a group more effective at solving difficult problems.

  • • Teams comprised of men and women produced the most frequently cited software patents.

  • • Another survey shows that companies with the highest representation of women in senior leadership had better financial performance than companies with the lowest representation of women.

 

Overall, a company/project has a higher likelihood of being successful if there are women on teams to provide a more balanced approach, more inclusive design, and more innovation.

 

What can we do about that?

First and foremost: stop the unconscious bias! Boys like to play with cars and then PCs while girls play with dolls and later with makeup. No. Parents should be educated, society should change.

 

Some examples with actions:

yes Create groups for girls & women →  guide them through the CS, maths, physics etc.

yes Create a more inclusive environment → have specific projects for kids with no programming experience and then another group can be kids with some experience or you could let them choose which topic they prefer to be assigned with (eg. robotics, electronics etc).

yes Encourage women to be mentors for other women or men, invite them to meetups, let them be speakers to conferences.

 

Focused solutions based on what you want

1. Better chances for your girls? Encourage them to attend coding camps, after-school robotics programs, or teen hackathons and to take high school coding classes. You can even search for free online courses that teach “code for kids”...

2. Better chances for your students as an educator? Talk about equality, educate your pupils, create workshops, create opportunities to explore the tech world, visit tech companies, meet successful women (or men) managers, let the kids to be inspired by the company.

3. Better tech solutions? do what you can to encourage more women to try tech on for size. It’s not going to fit everyone, but it’s going to fit more than we have today.

 

Solutions through time

The solution comes down to individuals to see past gender and to seek to improve the tech industry overall, and not just for women. This means holding individuals responsible for their actions or, sometimes, their inaction. Speaking up, not against men or women, but against unfairness in the workplace. Doing away with events designed to be exclusive to any gender. Being a mentor, not just for women, but for everyone. Not shaming a person based on how they do or don’t fit a stereotype.

 

We need

Genuine interest in technology, promoting new and exciting advances in the field, and encouraging collaboration in pursuit of these goals. We need more trained computer scientists, of any gender, to meet the projected job needs of the future. The gender gap in tech isn’t so much the issue, as it is the symptom of other problems. Each and everyone should be aware of their personal responsibility.

 

Conclusion

Technology has no gender, the terminal doesn’t know if you are a boy or a girl or a unicorn, the keyboard cannon -yet- sense your feminine or manly fingers. Do what you can to get more women to join the force. Nothing should stop anyone from learning and hacking and building wonderful, amazing, mesmerizing things. It’s time to take more interest in improving tech culture and, in general, stem fields instead of focusing so much on gender diversity.

 

Thanks for reading/watching

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