More female techies needed
It’s Christmas morning, and little Timmy and Kate are anxiously opening their presents, eager to find out what Santa has brought them. Timmy opens his package to find a new model car. It can be programmed to run certain tracks and do tricks when it’s built. Kate opens hers to find another doll. Can you guess which of these children will be more likely to pursue science and technology?
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, women currently hold 29 percent of information technology jobs and earn 81 percent as much as similarly qualified men. The statistics at the upper levels are even more disturbing. According to Forbes, only 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and only 12.5 percent of FTSE 100 board directors are women. As for the major tech companies, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Foursquare and Paypal have no female board members. Apple has one woman boardmember out of seven men; Amazon has one out of eight; and Google has two out of nine.
This dearth of women does not seem to be the result of discrimination, but of far fewer women applying for these jobs. Senior editor of Tech Crunch, Mike Arrington, echoes the views of many men in technology.
“The problem isn’t that Silicon Valley is keeping women down, or not doing enough to encourage female entrepreneurs,” Arrington said on techcrunch.com. “The problem is that not enough women want to become (technology) entrepreneurs.”
This lack of interest is reflected in college admissions as well. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, despite that 58 percent of college enrollees are female, only 22 percent of computer science degrees and only 19 percent of engineering degrees were awarded to women in 2005. At UH, women make up 22 percent of engineering students, and 27 percent of technology students — slightly above the national average. So, when do girls lose interest in science and technology?
The exceptions to the rule, women like Marissa Meyer, vice-president of Google, are leading the vanguard of ‘girl geeks’ in Silicon Valley. Meyer believes that more women do not enter the technology field because of limited role models in the industry.
“They don’t want to become the stereotype of all-night coders, hackers with pasty skin,” Meyer said in the New Yorker.
This bias seems to begin early during childhood, when girls like Kate get dolls for Christmas, and boys like Timmy get mechanical toys. Research has found that young girls generally do not have confidence in their abilities in math and science, despite performing similarly to boys in the classroom because they are told that girls are bad at math and science. Students tend to focus after-school activities and career ambitions on subjects in which they are confident in their abilities. For girls, this leads to fields such as education and psychology.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave this year’s commencement address to Barnard College graduates. She advised them to “lean in” and to “let the barriers you face – and there will be barriers – be external, not internal.”
But many of these graduates have chosen their path. The road to more women in technology does not begin in Silicon Valley, but rather in our public schools. It is time for parents and educators to stop telling children what is or isn’t gender-appropriate, and teach them to be the best that they can be at whatever career they choose.
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected]