Kimberly Bryant was introduced to computer programming as a college freshman. In those days, Apple Macintosh was a newbie and FORTRAN and Pascal were the popular languages. She says she “remembers being excited by the prospects” of a rewarding career after college, but that she also felt “culturally isolated.”
Today, Bryant (@6Gems) seeks to empower young women from all backgrounds to enter the tech world through her San Francisco non-profit organization, Black Girls Code, which teaches programming skills.
Growing up, Dessy Daskalov’s parents were constantly showing her cool tech stuff. She recalls the day her father first showed her Google’s search engine, which was at a time when most people were still using Ask Jeeves for answers to life’s questions. “He told me how amazing it was . . . to have the ability to start from nothing, to build a big company and influence the world with it,” she says.
Today, Dessy is a Toronto-based software developer and the CTO and Co-Founder of Nudge Rewards, which builds mobile software that helps businesses deliver critical information to employees.
Both of these women represent much of what’s right with women in tech. What they don’t reflect is a growing trend or an equal representation of women in the industry. And that’s a crying shame, because experts agree that we need more women in tech and the reason is simple: tech will get better. Today, women still represent just a small fraction of entrepreneurs, coders, engineers, and investors. That needs to change, and here are eight reasons why:
1) Diversity Matters
The tech industry is a global enterprise and needs to understand and represent its entire consumer base. Women’s choices are believed to have an impact on up to 85% of purchasing decisions. When tech companies don’t have enough of a female perspective, they lack accurate input and a crucial female voice to address this strong economic force.
2) The Future Belongs to Everyone
Computing isn’t going anywhere. It’s our present and it most certainly will be our future, as it’s likely it will connect us to every product we own as we delegate more and more of our everyday tasks to machines and algorithms. It’s imperative that women have a voice in the design of that future.
3) Exceptional Entrepreneurs Needed
It’s time to start prioritizing female entrepreneurship. If businesses are to thrive and simultaneously create more jobs, young women and girls need to be encouraged early to view entrepreneurship as a viable career. Britain’s Centre for Entrepreneurs has found that women are better calculated risk-takers, are less prone to overconfidence, more likely to take a long-term view as opposed to fast-term growth, and are overall more ambitious than men. It also found that women achieve success despite facing more obstacles and barriers than their male counterparts.
4) Discrimination and Gender Bias Need Reduction
Washington D.C.-based Women Who Tech (@womenwhotech), found that only 7% of investment cash goes to start-ups led by women, and only 13% of venture-backed companies have at least one founder who is a woman. Women in tech need to be viewed by recruiters and employers as equally capable, and their position and pay need to reflect that. Unfortunately, it is still all too common for women to be offered lower salaries for the exact jobs given to men at higher ones. Women need to be educated on their worth in the tech industry and demand appropriate compensation.
Technology can only benefit from the fresh, original ideas and perspectives women bring to the table. When tech companies embrace diversity in their workforce, they help boost the rate at which they grow. Women in tech can more effectively address female customer needs, and that means a gain in revenues.
6) Help Wanted
By the year 2020, there will be more than one million tech-related jobs in the United States alone, but only enough graduates around to fill 39% of them. In that same time, it’s estimated that 50 billion devices or more will be connected to the internet, making a push for more women in tech all the more critical.
7) Does it Matter?
Yes it does. Women are severely underrepresented in science and tech. As a result, a multitude of real life problems that directly affect only women don’t get the attention they need and deserve. There needs to be an app for that.
8) Closing the Pay Gap
When you equal out the gender gap, you equal out the pay gap. For years it’s been noted that pink collar jobs tend to pay less than blue or white-collar jobs, even if the education and work required are equal. When more women move into the tech world (and more men move into traditional “women’s jobs”), wages will reflect a worker’s worth regardless of gender.