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Using Creative Approaches to Inspire More Women in Technology

On Friday March 8th, the world marked International Women’s Day. This event symbolically reaffirms society’s commitment to advancing the role of women across all facets of human endeavor.

In the technology sector, we continue to see more women taking on positions of leadership, supporting design and innovation, and helping to move ideas forward. Despite these achievements made over the past few decades, only a small fraction of today’s female college graduates in the United States are pursuing education in technical fields such as engineering or computer science. For example, despite women holding 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, they make up only 20 percent of those students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in computer science or engineering (source: Forbes and NSF). Why is it that very few women are going into tech each year?

Addressing the Need for More Women in Technology

Corporations, non-profits, and educational institutions need to play a larger role in promoting the development of technical skills and technology-oriented careers to help support and inspire female students to enter the field. We need to change the culture so that young women are inspired not only to use technology, but also to play a critical role in advancing its development.

The key question is, what types of strategies can corporate, non-profit, and education institutions employ to attract more women to the technology sector? The following are examples of initiatives that have been implemented across the three areas that may provide some additional inspiration and direction.

Corporate Sector

Microsoft is one of several technology companies that is keen to address the issue of a lack of women pursuing education and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of the company’s YouthSpark program, Microsoft founded DigiGirlz to provide high school girls with the opportunity to develop relevant technical skills through hands-on workshops and online classes, interact with Microsoft employees, and learn about potential careers in technology. The program is offered in the United States as well as in numerous countries across the globe.

Non-Profit Sector

To change the culture and perceptions of STEM careers amongst female students, several non-profits have emerged to help make careers in technology more appealing for this cohort. Organizations such as Girlstart and Girls Who Code offer a range of initiatives that include summer camps, after school programs, conferences, mentorship, and instructional material intended to introduce STEM concepts to young female students.

Education Sector

In the educational sector, MIT has implemented a Women’s Technology Program to spark interest amongst young women in high school in the areas of engineering and computer science. This comprises of a four week summer and residential program whereby 11th grade female students explore engineering through hands on experience obtained in labs, projects and in the classroom.

What are your thoughts for getting more women involved in tech? What other initiatives and programs are you aware of that are helping the cause?

Salima Ladha recruits top talent to OpenView and our Portfolio Companies.

  • Megan McNeill

    This is a great post Salima, and an important one at that. Check out this 2010 piece from Jolie O’Dell: She talks about women in tech by the numbers, and then cites a 1995 study in which the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Department began a campaign to enroll more women in its program. A direct quote:

    “At that time, just 7% (7 out of 96) of entering freshman computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon were women. Five years later, the percentage of women in the entering class had increased fivefold. In 1999, women were 38% of the incoming first-year computer science class (50 out of 130); in the fall of 2000, approximately 40% of the entering class were women.”

    Inspiring more women to enter the technology sector requires effort from many different directions, but we CAN do it. Thank you for highlighting that.

    In discouraging but relevant news, Complex Magazine just published a list called “The 40 Hottest Women in Tech,” listing women in tech not by their achievements, but by their physical appearance. Ugh. Reaction here: