2012-11-02

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

We should never forget that programming was initially a female profession. It was only later that women were slowly driven out of the industry. I’ve always been surprised that there aren’t more women in tech. I suspect that it is partially an image problem – especially computer jobs are much better than their reputation. Case in point: at the university of Munich, many more girls study “Bioinformatics” or “Media Informatics” than plain ”Informatics”. (Valid) reasons I’ve heard were: seemed more interesting and contains less math. The interesting part is that, in my experience, students of Bioinformatics and Media Informatics are just as good at Informatics as Informatics students and often end up in “normal” computer jobs. Yet, prior to these degrees, these girls might not have studied anything computer-related.

Word needs to get out that computer jobs are great. A few talking points:

  • Computer jobs are diverse: You really need people skills these days, as most of software development happens in teams. For that reason, soft skills are increasingly being taught as part of computer curricula. Furthermore, as so much human activity is computer-supported these days, you can work in a wide variety of domains and with a wide variety of people.
  • Applicants for computer jobs are much sought after: at the moment, many companies try to attract employees via hiring bonuses and other perks (free food, massages, etc.). A few smart companies go even further and offer benefits that really matter, such as four-day work weeks (example: Treehouse).
  • Computer jobs are fun: in addition to being diverse with nice working conditions, they are also intellectually challenging.
  • Computer jobs pay well.
  • Computer jobs are flexible: In theory, you can work from anywhere, at any time. In practice you need to collaborate with other humans and that imposes certain constraints.
If there are more women in tech, everyone benefits: women get good jobs, men get more balanced teams. Any ideas what can be done to persuade more women to go into tech? Things that already help:
  • New degrees such as “Bioinformatics” and “Media Informatics”.
  • Teaching programming at school ensures that more girls come in contact with it.
  • Initiatives such as “Rails Girls” and “Girl Develop It” that teach girls and women programming in a pressure-free environment.
  • Tech parents who teach their daughters some of their craft.

Recommended reading

A blog post by Sissi Adamski argues that it is “awesome to be a girl in tech”. It defines its target audience as follows:
  • Girls that don’t know what to study
  • Girls that do consider a job in IT (but need a little push)
  • Girls that don’t consider a job in IT (because they might after reading this article)
  • Girls who want to change career
  • Guys who wish there were more girls in tech ;)
The article is a great collection of the pros and cons of being a woman in tech.

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