Women in technology: Where my girls at?

Today in alarming news: A recent survey just found that 92 percent of software developers are men. Based on research, conducted by Stack Overflow, out of 26,000 programmers surveyed, only 5.8 percent were women, according to Fusion. These statistics, sadly, are not entirely surprising.

As a female coder, getting women more involved in STEM and technology roles is a cause near and dear to my heart. There are many times I sit in meetings and look around and realize that I am the only woman in the room. Sometimes I wonder if this is unique to my company or if this is just IT.

I received my answer while recently attending a big tech conference for work. Almost always, every workshop I attended, the female representation was around 20% or less.

Many attribute this underrepresentation to everything from toys or topics geared towards girls early on, to social stigma and gender bias in the workplace. The shocking thing is that the title of “first computer programmer” is credited to a woman, Ada Lovelace.

Personally, I was always interested in coding, but thought it seemed difficult and I didn’t really like math, so decided it wasn’t a good fit. After gaining more exposure to the field and discovering what I wanted from an occupation, I decided to make the transition to IT. It wasn’t easy, but it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

In school there was little encouragement for me to take this path and it definitely never showed up on those standardized career tests they make you take. Even when I started announcing that I wanted to switch my career path to technology, I often got a chuckle and a comment to the effect of “hmm you don’t seem to fit that mold”.

I am so incredibly fulfilled in my job and if I had listened to anyone beside myself, I would have missed that opportunity. It’s so important to overcome gender stereotypes and follow your passion. It’s also crucial we even out the scales in the tech industry—to allow more opportunities for women and create a culture of gender equality. That being said, here’s why more women should consider entering the field of tech:

It can be really lucrative. 

Need to pay back those student loans? Start in tech. The bureau of labor statistics cite an average salary of $93,350 per year for software developers and an expected 22% growth in available jobs through 2022. As someone involved in the hiring process at my company, I can tell you that we often struggle to find qualified developers, but the opportunities are there.

You can actually make the ideas you’ve dreamed up.
If you have an idea, say for an app, you can build it yourself. There are not many jobs or skill sets that allow you to have an idea and pretty quickly bring it to fruition.

You can have an impact on a much larger scale
Technology not only makes our lives easier, but also can do a lot of good. From creating applications that help children with autism more easily communicate, to those performing whole genome sequencing that assist in eliminating food borne illness. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

There really is a work/life balance
This is hard with any occupation, but many IT roles lend nicely to working from home or working alternative hours. There are also a lot of freelance and contractor work available, so if you don’t have to work a steady 9-5, you can work when you want.

If any of this sounds appealing to you, there are plenty of ways to learn more. A manager once told me that only 5% of our IT staff held computer science degrees. Programming languages are something you can learn on your own and often demonstrate competency without a computer related degree.

It is very easy to start small (or big) with a plethora of online learning tools like code.org, Lynda, and Safari Books. Web languages like HTML, CSS, jQuery and JavaScript are easy to pick-up (especially for non-programmers) and a fun place to start.

The drive to get women involved in technology is not just an individualized endeavor anymore. With only 17% tech roles filled by woman at Google, last year they invested $50 million in an initiative to teach young girls how to code. They also have a project called Made with Code that features fun coding projects, inspiring female stories currently in the field and resources for parents.

Google is not alone, Etsy also has a special program that helps woman become better programmers and provides opportunities for finding a job in the field. The program is free, but based upon acceptance.

Let’s keep tapping on that glass ceiling!