Although Katie Meyer, 19, has considered a career in technology, she isn’t sure it’s in the cards for her. Three years ago, when she was 16, her mother enrolled her in a coding camp for girls. “They made it really friendly for people that age, so it was really easy to learn,” Meyer says. “We just sat down and started learning HTML and CSS.” She decided to pursue coding, so she took a course at her high school. It didn’t go as well. “It was hell on earth! Like, it was awful.” She felt out of her element, and couldn’t quite catch up to the rest of her classmates. She says it didn’t help that she was one of only two girls in that class. “All the guys knew exactly what they were doing.” Meyer, a history buff, ended up dropping that course and hasn’t pursued coding since. Stories like hers are playing out across the country. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, men vastly outnumber women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Only 28 per cent of STEM graduates are women, and only 23 per cent of people working in high-paying STEM industries are women. Industry leaders are trying to improve those statistics and say the best way to get more women into tech is to change the conversation around what tech is — and what it’s not. Andrea Stairs, managing director of eBay Canada, spends a lot of time thinking about how to increase the ranks of women in her field. “I don’t think tech is a particularly friendly environment for women and I think we see that over and over again. It’s depressing,” Stairs says. Cast wider nets: Ebay has made a commitment to tracking diversity within the company, which employs 12,600 people globally. The last snapshot is from 2016 and it shows that women make up 22 per cent of its tech workforce. Read the rest of the story here
Despite billions of dollars in outreach programs designed to lure women into computer programming, and companies mandating that more women be hired, most females would rather go into something involving people. Yet a new survey of 270 high school students concludes that three times as many girls would interested in enrolling in a computer science class if the classroom was redesigned to be less “geeky” and more inviting. So we can knock Barbie dolls and pink clothes, but they are appealing to the market that is rather than the market some academics would like it to be. The notion that women and men are the same has become passe. “Our findings show that classroom design matters — it can transmit stereotypes to high school students about who belongs and who doesn’t in computer science,” said lead author Allison Master, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning&Brain Sciences (I-LABS). “This is the earliest age we’ve looked at to study stereotypes about computer science. It’s a key age group for recruitment into this field, because girls in their later adolescence are starting to focus on their career options and aspirations.” In the study, high school boys and girls (aged 14 to 18 years) completed questions about:
- Their interest in enrolling in a computer science class
- Their sense of belonging in a computer science class
- How much they thought they personally “fit” the computer science stereotype
Then, the UW team showed the students photos of two different computer science classrooms decorated with objects that represented either the “geeky” computer science stereotype, including computer parts and “Star Trek” posters, or a non-stereotypical classroom containing items such as art and nature pictures. Students had to say which classroom they preferred, and then answered questions about their interest in enrolling in a computer science course and their thoughts and feelings about computer science and stereotypes. Girls (68 percent) were more likely than boys (48 percent) to prefer the non-stereotypical classroom. And girls were almost three times more likely to say they would be interested in enrolling in a computer science course if the classroom looked like the non-stereotypical one. Boys didn’t prefer one classroom’s physical environment over the other, and how the classroom looked didn’t change boys’ level of interest in computer science. “Stereotypes make girls feel like they don’t fit with computer science,” Master said. “That’s a barrier that isn’t there for boys. Girls have to worry about an extra level of belonging that boys don’t have to grapple with.” Previously they reported that inaccurate negative cultural stereotypes about computer science deterred college-age women from the field and that altering stereotypes can increase girls’ interest. The researchers say that changing computer science stereotypes to make more students feel welcome in high school classrooms would help recruit more girls to the field, which has one of the lowest percentages of women among STEM fields. “Our new study suggests that if schools and teachers feel they can’t recruit girls into their computer science classes,” Master said, “they should make sure that the classrooms avoid stereotypes and communicate to students that everyone is welcome and belongs.” Read the entire article here
Melinda Gates wants to put her muscle behind getting more women in tech.
Gates has focused much of her work on the well-being of women and girls around the globe — but this issue hits particularly close to home. Gates, a computer science graduate, joined Microsoft in 1987. She eventually married its founder Bill Gates, and the two launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Gates is now creating a “personal office” devoted to bringing more women into tech, according to an interview with Jessi Hempel at BackChannel. It’s early in the process, and Gates is still figuring out the best way to get involved. She said she’s currently in “learning mode,” and looking at everything from education to venture capital funding for women. One thing is evident: Gates said data will play a big role in approaching the issue. Gates cited the fact that just 18% of women are earning computer science undergrad degrees in the U.S. That has fallen significantly from the 1980s, when women received 38% of the degrees. “Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it,” she said.
She added that her office looked into the number of patents received by female inventors. “Four decades ago, 3% of all patents listed at least one woman inventor. As of 2010, nearly 19% of patents did,” she said. While that shows a clear improvement, she said her team’s projections didn’t see parity until 2092. In recent years, companies like Google (Tech30), Apple ( , Tech30),Microsoft ( , Tech30) have released annual reports on workforce diversity in a bid to be more transparent. But there’s been very little progress. Microsoft’s 2015 report showed that its percentage of female employees actually declined from 29% to 26.8%. It cited massive layoffs as the reason. The transparency is, however, a start. And Gates notes that there hasn’t been a lot of research or money devoted to the issue previously. “In the tech space, men don’t really see a problem and a lot of the money is held by men,” she said.), Facebook ( ,
It’s not difficult to understand why tech products and services would benefit from a more inclusive workforce. In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow last week, Gates also stressed the importance of diversity. “We know that more diverse teams put out a better product,” she said. This goes for people of color as well, which Gates also noted in her interview with Hempel. Gates cited Apple’s health app as an example of a product that has a “blatant error.” It didn’t include period tracking. Gates stressed that she was “not picking on Apple at all,” but “it’s just an example of all the things we can leave out for women.” Read the original article here