Dartmouth University recently announced that they have become the first University to graduate more women in engineering than men (51%). Not only is this great news for the engineering industry, but for the US economy as a whole.
At a time when we are facing a skills shortage, particularly in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), more women must be encouraged into a sector that has traditionally been dominated by men. We are missing out on a vast, untapped networked of skilled women who could bring fresh ideas, innovation and practises to an industry that lacks diversity.
However, it is encouraging to see the gender imbalance start to even out.
I am proud to see New York (where I am based) leading the way for women in tech. Although the West Coast Bay Area is considered to be the tech hub of the US, there are nearly 22,000 women in computer occupations in New York City; that’s more than three times the number of women in San Jose’s tech industry.
According to SmartAsset, New York is the 5th best city for women in tech according to a number of factors, with 25.9% of tech jobs filled by women and the gender pay gap closing to 95.6% of that of the average men’s salary.
C- LEVEL AND PAY
However, I think we’d all like to see this figure reach 100%. Unfortunately, only 3 cities in the US do so. Interestingly, in Detroit women eclipse men by a considerable amount, with the average female earning 122.8% of their male counterpart’s salaries.
According to Equilar, the percentage of women on boards at S&P 500 technology companies increased to 18.3% in 2014 from 13.7% in 2010.
Successful women in tech such as Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Wojcicki act as role models and are an inspiration to women looking to join the industry and those just starting their careers.
Having a diverse board can also improves the morale of employees and implies that the company is concerned with the advancement of women and minorities. From an external perspective, it also increases a company’s reputational standing at a time when investors are looking closely at diversity levels.
So what can we do to encourage more women to study tech, close pay gaps and increase the number of C-level tech women?
ENCOURAGING FROM AN EARLY AGE
We must encourage girls from a young age to be interested in technology. Parents have huge influence over children in their younger years, and even casual conversations can spark an interest in a child.
If you ask young girls how many of them like playing on a tablet or phone, I bet the answer will be near 100%. It is the period between using the technology and being able to work on the technology where women are not encouraged enough to consider a career in the field.
In order to plug this gap, the government should launch more initiatives for women to take up tech studies in their teen years and offer college grants for women looking to further their studies. Businesses should also considering sponsoring local tech meet-ups for women, or sending women to speak at university courses to nurture a career after education.
Is an interesting one. On one hand it means a sure-fire way to bring more women into tech roles, but it can also have a negative effect on your workforce. People want to be recruited naturally and because they are valued employees, not because a quota says so. Also, despite it being for the benefits of everyone in the business, it could make women feel uncomfortable around their male counterparts.
RESEARCHING THE RIGHT ROLE
Job seekers should identify companies with great working environments and cultures. Don’t think that just because it’s a male-majority company that it will be a hostile environment – companies with great cultures will make anybody feel welcome and support them, man or woman.
With advancements in technology, businesses have the option of offering better work-life balances for their employees. Women may find this particularly useful, as strains on women upholding a career through parenthood can often result in unmanageable work-life balances. Practises like remote working and flexible hours allow mothers to keep their job and career progression while businesses benefit from diverse work forces.
WOMEN HELPING WOMEN
Those women who are already working high level positions within the tech industry can speak out for women and encourage them. It’s reassuring to know there are figureheads in the industry, and ones that are open to helping/guiding more women are a very powerful attraction tool. Women often find that their networks do not reach far enough up the hierarchy to find good sponsors. To counteract this, women in senior tech positions can write blogs, open discussions and speak/host at meet ups to show that women can be ambitious in this industry and achieve, with the right skills, as much as their male counterparts.
More women in the industry means diversity, which brings greater innovation, creativity and morale. This results in a more successful industry. We must draw on every resource we have to ensure that women feel comfortable, valued and equal to male workers in the same roles. If we can encourage women to take up STEM in equal amounts to men, as at Dartmouth University, business and people will benefit.