Technology is without a doubt the fastest-growing industry across the globe. In many ways, the future belongs to tech. 1.4 million jobs will open in computer science by 2020; however, we only have enough qualified graduates to take 29% of those positions. Stunningly, less than 3% of them are predicted to be filled by women.
That figure is a startling illustration of the mammoth gender gap in tech, but the saddest statistic of all is that we have seen a drop in the number of women in computer science from 37% in the 1980s to less than 18% today. It’s even worse at the top—with fewer than 5% of tech leadership positions held by females.
That 20% decrease over the past few decades is truly shocking. It is clear that the lack of women in science and technology is a much larger conversation than simply gender parity. It is a serious domestic issue with vast economic challenges that need to be addressed at once.
One of the bright spots in this bleak picture is organizations such as Girls Who Code, which is dedicated to attacking the pipeline problem at earlier entry points in students’ school years: training teachers in elementary school how to code, producing coding board books to put its curriculum into classes, offering after-school programs in middle school and summer immersion programs in college. Says founder Reshma Saujani, “We’re meeting girls where they’re at in every single age demographic to get them inspired.”
Another woman who is making a difference on the local front is Tameika Reed, founder of WomenInLinux.com. She says, “One of the biggest challenges for women is finding someone who will be on your team—an ally. Most of the time I am the only woman, certainly the only black woman, in the room. I’ve become really good at reading people. Learning how to do that through body language and their background is very important.”
As Reed confirms, ability and passion aren’t the sole issues causing the gender gap. The dude-dominated culture and lack of female role models perpetuate the cycle, making the industry less appealing to young women. At tech conferences, the only women in the halls are usually “booth babes” hired as eye candy.
“There are not enough women speaking at conferences. So I encourage women and help them become presenters, because we need to see them on stage. My goal is to show women a path to leadership in technology,” says Reed.
In the Anniversary issue of GRAVITAS, we spoke with Erin Cigich, CEO of Clickbooth, as she addressed her challenges to prove herself early on in an industry that is accustomed to seeing women as an accessory rather than a colleague. Erin and the president of Big Fish Digital, Sara MacQueen, also interviewed for that issue, are two impressive role models the next generation can look to for inspiration. Their stories, while completely different, demonstrate the possibilities open to women even in a highly competitive field. It is vital that we recognize and celebrate that 5% who have managed to obtain a coveted seat at the top of the technology game. Their journeys provide a footprint for the future female tech giants of tomorrow to follow.
Written by Jules Lewis Gibson, founder and editor in chief of GRAVITAS Magazine
Follow Jules @SeasideJules