Information Age Announces Women in IT Awards Finalists
Information Age, a U.K.-based B2B technology magazine, has announced the finalists for its 2017 Women in IT Awards. Finalists hail from a variety of leadership positions and are celebrated for expanding women’s employment in tech. In addition to naming individual leaders, Information Age also recognized companies that have help close the tech gender gap.
Women in IT: Where We Are Now
At Code Conference 2016, philanthropist and former Microsoft project manager Melinda Gates noted how much tech’s share of female employees had declined over the past 30 years.
“When I graduated, 34 percent of undergraduates in computer science were women,” she said. “The peak was 37 percent, and we’re now down to 17 percent.”
Part of the solution involves encouraging girls of all ages to learn coding and what it can do. According to a report from Accenture and Girls Who Code, girls exposed to video games at a young age are four times more likely to show interest in coding when they’re older. Simply portraying computing as “cool” increases interest by 11 percent, and emphasizing that computing is “for girls” boosts enthusiasm by 25 percent.
Unfortunately, the same report also found an enthusiasm gap among current secondary-school computer science teachers, a factor that can dampen efforts to engage young women in tech. In fact, 73 percent of girls who had inspiring computer science teachers expressed interest in learning more about coding, but only 11 percent of teachers believe computing can change the world, and two-thirds of current computer science teachers said they wished they were doing something else.
Many parents want to expose their daughters to computing as a career, but too few know where to find resources. Although the Accenture study found that nearly half of parents agreed computing skills were a high priority, only 25 percent felt they could articulate the benefits of studying computing and coding.
Inspire Women of the Future
Fixing the pipeline to boost school-age girls’ interest in computing is essential, but businesses need women in IT now, not just 10 to 15 years down the road. On-the-job training initiatives that empower women to learn computing skills can provide a faster solution to current shortages. Accenture and Girls Who Code found that 58 percent of women currently working in computing didn’t major in computer science as undergraduates.
Companies should also work to improve long-term retention when women start families. Stephanie Shupe, senior software engineer for Lookout and advisor to Women Who Code, told Robert Half that companies need to do more to support women making major life choices.
“Many women leave the workforce to have a child or to stay at home while their children are very young,” Shupe explained. “Then, given the very rapid change that occurs in the IT industry, they struggle to come back.”
Closing the salary gap between women in IT and their male counterparts could also make tech jobs more attractive to women. According to research by Glassdoor, male programmers earn 28.3 percent more than females. Male game artists, software architects, information security specialists and SEO specialists also outearn their female coworkers by more than 10 percent.
Consequences of the Gender Gap
A lack of women in the tech workforce contributes to the broader shortage of IT skills and employees, but it also has big implications for emerging technologies. In The Wall Street Journal, Zeitguide CEO and founder Brad Grossman says that as machine learning gains greater prominence, a lack of female input could shape the future, and not in a good way.
“If algorithms learn from users, but the users are mostly men, what are the machines learning?” Grossman asks.
For now, the Women in IT Awards program is one way to call attention to women’s achievements in tech. The ceremony takes place on Jan. 25, 2017, at Grosvenor Park in London.