The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Yet U.S. universities are only on track to produce enough qualified graduates to fill 29% of these jobs.  Jobs in tech are plentiful and lucrative.  One might wonder, why is the supply to demand ratio so skewed?

What’s Going On?

The answer is that the tech industry is missing half the population. Only 18% of Computer Science degrees are held by women. Hundreds of tech organizations report having extremely low female participation, and the further up the org charts one goes, the less and fewer women are visible. In fact, there is a significant drop in women in IT as they move into their thirties.

The statistics do not improve with major technology companies, which also showcase a relatively low number of women participation. Apple has 20% of women employees in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have 16.6%, 15%, and 10% respectively.

Forbes Article: Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech

How Did We Get Here?

“It starts at a young age in our society,” the Director of HR at Oakwood Systems Group while presenting at Dev Up 2016. “When we examine U.S. cultural norms, we need to look no further than that toy aisle. Take a look at the giant toy seller’s gendered product pages. Boys get building sets and learning-focused toys, while girls get pretend-play and beauty accessories. As humans, it is difficult to escape these messages.”

Application Development team member at Oakwood Systems Group, adds, “When you consider the fact that humans have occupied the earth for more than 200,00 years, it is still relatively new for women to be in the workforce at all. Women have only been considered ‘career-holders’ for roughly 50 years.” The traditional lack of encouragement for women to pursue STEM careers and the relative recency of women entering the workforce has converged into the perfect storm: where female participation in technology-focused careers is staggeringly low.

How Can We Change It?

All young people should have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow. But, right now, not enough of our youth has access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers.

You can help to change this paradigm, first and foremost, by recognizing your own personal biases. This is not always a comfortable topic for people, But most people have subtle biases, which are relatively automatic, indirect, and ambivalent.  These subtle biases underlie unintentional behavior patterns.  It includes comfort with one’s own in-group, plus exclusion and avoidance of out-groups. In a male-dominated tech world, what do we do?  Recognize and combat the unconscious biases that are prevalent in the hiring and promotion of women in technology-related careers.

In addition to being aware of your biases, it is recommended that professionals in a technology-focused role take a more active approach to closing the gender gap by mentoring youth in their local community. There are a number of organizations for which you can volunteer, including DigiGirlz, Coder Girl and Girl Develop It. You can also volunteer at a school in your local community.

Gender Inequality Conclusion

In today’s digital age, the lack of female representation in STEM affects us all, and it’s time we all did something about it.

Next read:
Surviving the Talent Shortage of 2016

Next Steps

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About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

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