We live in a digital age, where chrome-coated devices connected via the Internet or powered by smart algorithms have remedied popular predicaments and addressed human needs in the most efficient of ways. It is the stuff of fantasy, when compared to the archaic, industrial technologies of centuries past. However, most importantly, the rapid technological expansion of the 21st century has largely empowered consumers while also creating millions of new, lucrative jobs in management, engineering, programming, design, and research, among other disciplines. Issues including health care, agriculture, communication, human rights, education and transportation are ripe for radical change and innovation, as tech companies boldly tackle the world’s biggest problems, giving the industry an appeal for those who actively envision and pursue positive change.
However, becoming a part of the grandeur of tech is not a future easily attained by all who seek it.
It’s a widely-expressed, if not exaggerated, sentiment in mainstream media and popular publications that women are a demographic underrepresented in the ever-augmenting technology industry. The more-or-less alarmingly low figures of female participation in this field are oftentimes attributed to a number of different gendered obstacles. For instance, many claim there to be normalized elements of sexism and microaggression preventing women from holding such jobs or thriving in the workplace, while others argue that there are simply limited numbers of opportunities and positions “open” to women in the tech-related job market altogether, when compared to those of their male competitors. Many other plausible explanations and theories about this particular gender divide exist as well, but the broader question remains: what can be done, if anything? Is there hope for a better, more inclusive future in this industry?
Well, according to Pamela Maynard, president for Europe, Africa and Latin America at IT consultancy Avanade, in an interview with Forbes, the issues at hand for women in tech can be tackled by companies making the choice to recognize “women’s strengths, insights and skills to ensure that they are taking active steps in their careers early on, so the pipeline remains rich with female candidates”. In other words, while success for women, in part, is reliant on corporate open-mindedness and interest in adapting their recruitment process, the journey to a successful career in technology, on a personal level, requires serious effort and involvement from the get-go.
This is where the aforementioned argument becomes relevant to us college-age women, as we embark on a new, important chapter of our lives, beginning with selecting a school to attend, and a major or concentration of study. This transition naturally prompts those most contemplative among us to begin thinking critically about future careers and vocations, and the ways in which the specialized education received will be used and applied in the real world upon graduation. Yes, admittedly, entering college is a challenging and oftentimes pivotal time for all of us who endure it, but the path you carve out for yourself shouldn't be influenced by any external factors, especially those of a culture that in numerous, systematic ways marginalizes women who pursue the unorthodox.
Women, evidently, make up only 18% of engineering, 18% of computer science and 19% of physics majors, compared to higher proportion of 37% across the board in 1984. This drop is significant, to say the least. Yet, in no way do the disheartening numbers match up to present day levels of interest among young women in these fields, especially as our society has blossomed into it’s most productive and revolutionary digital age. The lack of young women choosing an specialized education and future career in STEM is a reality that simply needs to change if ever equality among the genders is to be achieved in other realms of life, as idyllic as it sounds.
I mean, I don’t know about you, but having a stake in the future of an industry that has become such an integral part of everyday living worldwide matters to me. I dream of learning the languages and science of computers, of working on applications and products that help people, of following in the footsteps of powerhouses like Sheryl Sandberg, Ursula Burns, Julie Larson-Green and Marisa Meyer. I dream of leaving my own, meaningful impact on the mainstream digital landscape and I’m certain there are many others who wish the same future for themselves.
If you’re one of those people also, be proud, not intimidated. Now begins the time for you to begin your research. Find out what you’re good at with your current skill set, and what else appeals to you. It is imperative that you begin your journey early, and make the appropriate assessments and changes on your own behalf. Enroll in any and all of the courses that peak your interest, even if they appear to be male-dominated. The resources and instruction available to you on campus will be extraordinary and exciting, regardless of who your classmates are. Be sure to also seek out internships or any forms of mentorship at companies or organizations you’re familiar with, and, in the process, don’t be afraid of self-promotion. Many companies offer such opportunities for high school upperclassmen and incoming college students, and it will be worth your while to seek out the valuable experience, in order to begin to learn the skills of the trade, such as programming, product management or design, and, obviously build your resume.
Additionally, girls, steer clear of anyone who is doubtful or dismissive of your potential, or any company whose overall “culture” is not one of respect towards women. This disrespect can be extremely subtle, but, regardless, isn't anything you should ever subject yourself to. Furthermore, don’t allow your own self-deprecating mentality drag you down. Don’t feel limited by a perceived lack of ability or sense of inferiority to those around you. Not all people are born mathematically and scientifically precocious, and you shouldn’t feel as though you need to have all future skills in order before you begin college. That’s why you have professors and mentors, from whom you can learn. And, with all of this said, none of your capabilities are predetermined by your gender. Rather, your future success is reliant on how much work you’re willing to put into it.
The direction of technological age can and should be anyone’s game. Go get em’, girls.
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