How to Get More Women in Tech in 2020
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Guest Post by Artur Meyster

Women continue to be painfully underrepresented in many economic sectors. Unfortunately, tech is no different—women hold only about 20 percent of all jobs in technology worldwide. If we expand our scope to STEM education more in general, the percentage is still low: worldwide only 32% graduates are women (WEF, 2016). 

Striving to improve the woman-to-man ratio, companies around the world are looking to hire female talent. However, with women so vastly underrepresented in the sector, this is no easy task. Executives are scratching their heads, wondering what they can do to increase the number of female workers and attract the best female talent. 

The answer is multilayered, with changes needed across the entire educational and professional apparatus—from early education to the workplace. Here we explore a few ways to boost female representation in the tech sector.

Promote STEM Education 

It all begins with early education. Science, Technology, Engineer and Math (STEM) is still widely perceived as a male-dominated field, which explains the low number of girls who choose this educational path. Even today, only 18 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the US are earned by women, according to the Computer Sciences Organisation.

Studies point out that girls tend to lose interest in STEM and related fields at around 15, which suggests that tech companies need to reach out to young teenagers before this age. For many teens and pre-teens, hearing about the job prospects in tech directly from a local leader or executive could mean the difference between choosing a technical or non-technical career.

Companies should consider partnering with schools and organizations in their area to speak to girls about the opportunities that the tech sector has to offer. But why stop there? To really pique their curiosity, firms can organize workshops where the students get hands-on experience in coding, web development, user experience design, and other skills. These events could be pivotal in helping young girls develop the analytical mindset the industry requires.

Increase Exposure to Role Models

The scarcity of female workers in the tech sector contributes to the low number of girls choosing a technical career, statistics from the World Economic Forum (2016) suggest. Exposure to more female leaders in the industry is therefore essential to encourage more young girls to opt for this career path. 

Schools and universities must prioritize the creation of spaces and opportunities for female students to meet successful women in tech. Bringing female tech leaders to discuss their experiences in the sector would allow girls to hear first-hand accounts of what it is like to work in the field, the problems they are likely to encounter, and the many opportunities available.

During these events, attendees can explore the main questions and concerns that women face, such as social expectations, family and work balance, and thriving in a male-dominated industry. These young women will benefit from the advice of professionals that have already dealt with these issues.

Access to Mentorship

Mentorship is key to support young women navigating important life decisions, as a study of young women that chose to join a tech initiative in Cambodia shows. During secondary and tertiary education, institutions must consider offering mentorship opportunities for young women who are interested in tech. 

This mentorship can take various forms. For example, the students can be paired with a dedicated mentor throughout their studies. Schools can also organize visits to tech companies in the area where students can join group mentoring sessions led by female executives.

Education institutions can get creative and consider events such as speed mentoring, where a group of female leaders is invited to talk. Each is given a certain amount of time, say 20 minutes, to introduce themselves and their work, tackle a specific topic relevant to the sector and answer questions from the audience. When their time runs out, another speaker takes the stage.

Talent Mobility

Many believe that you need to have impressive coding skills or be a math whiz to start a career in tech, but that’s nothing more than a myth. The truth is that companies in the tech sector require the services of many professionals with non-technical skills. These professionals can have very satisfying and lucrative careers in a tech company.

Compensation monitoring site Comparably recently compiled results from more than 14,500 users to determine the most popular jobs for people without a technical background, and how much they pay.

The employees surveyed came from companies of all sizes, including Apple, Uber and Facebook. The study found plenty of roles that require little to no tech experience—some of them complete with handsome salaries and bonuses. 

These are a few of the non-technical roles in high demand in the tech sector: accountants (base salary $60,249), copywriters ($65,976), customer service managers ($65,400), business analysts ($78,393), and marketing managers ($81,095).

The thing is that these positions can also serve as a springboard to a career as a tech professional. It is not unheard of to start working for a tech startup as a copywriter and then progressively transition into a more technical role. Some non-techies hired by tech companies are eventually bitten by the bug of coding, and start to learn programming languages and other tech tools on their own. Eventually, they may move on to an entirely technical role, such as a web developer, database administrator or SEO expert.

Get the skills you need

Whether you are a high school student deciding what to study in university or a professional working in a non-technical role, if you are considering starting a career in tech, you first need to acquire certain skills and knowledge. You have several options at your disposal.

The traditional route is to study Computer Science at a university or college to earn an academic degree. Many tech employers indeed favor university graduates, but earning a college degree entails a four-year commitment and a substantial financial investment.

A second—and increasingly more popular—path is to attend a coding bootcamp. Bootcamps allow you to acquire the skills you need to have your foot in the door quickly. In less than 15 weeks of intense, practical training, you will learn the basics of your chosen profession and be ready to apply for jobs. 

More and more people are choosing coding bootcamps as opposed to studying full-time at a university. This is because bootcamps represent a much smaller time and money investment and are, therefore, considered the smarter alternative. Compare the average cost of a bootcamp—$13,500—to what a university degree could potentially cost. Earning a degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for example, costs between $60,000 and $70,000 per year, making the cost of a single semester exceed that of an entire coding bootcamp.

Finally, many tech sector hopefuls choose to teach themselves. Depending on how disciplined and able to motivate yourself you are, this may be the right option for you, but keep in mind that the accreditations you’d earn by completing a university degree or bootcamp can be very helpful during the job application process.

Seek Support

The journey is always easier with other like-minded people by your side. Fortunately, there are multiple organizations and regular events to inspire young women to enter a tech career and support those already walking down this path. 

Women in Technology (WIT) is an organization with one aim—advancing women in technology, from students to seasoned professionals. To achieve its goal, WIT engages in leadership development, technology education, networking and mentoring opportunities for women at all levels of their careers. The organization has over 1,000 members in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia metro region.

Similarly named, Women in Tech, is an international organization that aims to close the gender gap and help women embrace technology. The organization focuses on four primary areas: education, entrepreneurialism, social inclusion, science and innovation. The aim is to educate, equip and empower women and girls with the necessary skills and confidence to succeed in STEM careers.

The Women Tech Global Conference​​​​​​ is a virtual conference connecting thousands of women and minorities in tech through an interactive platform featuring keynotes, engaging panels, technical workshops, and a tech job fair with face-to-face networking sessions.​​​​​​​

Taking place in Amsterdam, the European Women in Technology is mainland Europe’s biggest celebration of the successes and innovations engineered by women from across the tech industry. European Women in Technology seeks to give women the educational tools, inspiration, knowledge and connections they need to thrive as individuals and become active participants in driving progressive change and equality in the sector.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Artur Meyster Headshot

Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech.

https://twitter.com/arturmeyster

https://www.linkedin.com/in/meyster

Resources

Read the insights of the 4th edition of the Advance and HSG Gender Intelligence Report.

https://www.weduglobal.org/advancing-women-in-tech-in-cambodia/

https://www.comparably.com/blog/study-10-popular-jobs-in-tech-for-non-techies/

https://careerkarma.com/careers/web-development/

https://careerkarma.com/rankings/best-coding-bootcamps/

References 

Microsoft. (2016). “Why Europe Girls aren’t studying STEM.” Microsoft. https://news.microsoft.com/europe/features/dont-european-girls-like-science-technology/#sm.0000a046evm91crtzzd15dbmak88g%23O0g4dh2732ZlhJdB.97

World Economic Forum. (2016, Jan). “The Industry Gender Gap. Women and Work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Executive Summary. WEF. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOJ_Executive_Summary_GenderGap.pdf



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