I know, I know, you are probably going to think I am biased. A woman writing about the scarcity of women in technology. Perhaps I am, but at least I am coming from a position of informed bias. As a woman, you see the lack of female representation in technology fields from the day that you choose to pursue a career in engineering. You see it when find yourself to be one of 10 women in a crowd of over 150 engineers. The gender imbalance starts in education, at the university level and even before, and only gets further exacerbated with passing years and milestones.
When I first graduated from college and started my career in a technology dominated company, I found myself to be in a minority. Finding a woman in technology is almost like finding a unicorn - a talented, highly motivated and an excellent at multi-tasking unicorn. As I started to grow and advance in my career I found that the numbers dwindled even more, and at an alarming rate, largely due to the age and stage of life for women in technology driven careers.
The dearth of women pursuing technology careers is not due to a lack of aptitude or capabilities but instead a function of several other factors including the structure of our educational system, societal biases and a workplace culture of boys’ clubs. Starting from a very young age most Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) classes and toys are targeted to boys, while even a basic search for girl’s toys directs you to dolls and dress up.
As we continue to grow, society expects that women be the nurturers and primary care givers for their family. In turn, industry and corporate culture shies away from hiring women because it may seem like their priorities will remain focused more on their family than on the job at hand. So many women feel like they have to give up on their career ambitions because of a lack of viable options to pursue their personal and professional goals simultaneously.
How can we change this?
As parents and educators, we need to do better and give all kids, regardless of gender, access to education in STEM fields, and encourage curious minds in the direction that nurtures all sides of learning. I see this shift occurring in educational toys and classes and am excited to see how this shapes this coming generation.
In the corporate world, we should look for innovative ways to encourage employees to balance work and life so they don’t have to choose one over the other. I see a lot of men wanting to partner 50-50 with their spouses. Giving both men and women the opportunity to be care givers while giving them the tools to be successful at work can vastly improve the pool of talent you bring to your company. The technology industry is always striving to be progressive and innovative. Why not strive to be disruptive and cutting edge in the options presented to women in technology. Find ways to enable them to continue to chase their professional passions while still fulfilling their personal dreams. A lot of new start-ups and next-gen firms are starting to include paternity leave as a standard policy to encourage the equal opportunity and partnership at work and home.
We should look for ways to provide innovative methods to enable women to put their best foot forward without feeling at a disadvantage. Imagine an individual that has reached this far by swimming against the current of societal pressures – they have the natural bent to want to succeed despite the curve balls thrown at them. You want to have this kind of individual on your side. A popular meme comes to mind when I write this:
Here’s to strong women
May we know them
May we be them
May we raise them
I don’t think I am a feminist. Rather, I would like to think that I am a humanist (is that a word? It should be if it is not!) As long as you have the right skillset, a good work ethic and the desire to succeed, companies out there should be vying to make it possible for you to propel them forward. It is not gender of your workforce that drives the future of the company. Indeed, the right talent pool can take a company to whatever heights it is looking to reach!
One of the reasons why Spraoi as a company is successful is because it believes that “Talent trumps Everything”. If you have the talent then it should not matter where you are in life, your gender or your location.