There’s never been a better time for people to get involved in technology, and with the rise of tech giants like Facebook and Google, jobs in the tech field are flourishing. Each year, there seems to be a new startup that’s making its mark on the world and creating more jobs for people in technology and sciences.
There’s just one problem: where are all the women? The tech field is notorious for a massive gender gap across all levels of the workforce, and the problem isn’t getting much better. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that computer science jobs will increase by 19% by 2026; however, women currently only hold 18% of computer science undergraduate degrees in the United States. Women make up half the total of college-educated in the U.S., but only 29% go into the science and engineering workforce. It’s even worse for women minorities in the workforce – they only make up 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.
Why aren’t there more women choosing careers in computer science? Some have suggested that the problem lies in the lack of early engagement. Others claim that women are simply not interested in computer science, and that the resources currently being spent to get more women involved should be spent on those already in the field.
Then, there are people like Sara Chipps, CEO of Jewelbots, who believes the reason women aren’t getting into technology is because they have been socialized away from STEM at an early age. Chipps, who is dedicated to get more girls interested in STEM, has created hardware designed to get girls engaged in tech, such as a friendship bracelet that young women can program to connect with friends and perform other tasks. She’s kept it open source so girls can learn to program on it.
Tracey Welson-Rossman is the founder of TechGirlz, a non-profit that focuses on getting middle school girls interested in technology. She believes that the reason girls aren’t more involved is because schools fail to cultivate their interest. Schools offer few programming or tech classes early on, so while younger boys gain tech experience playing with computers as a hobby, girls aren’t introduced to it until later on. By the time women do take an interest in STEM, they aren’t as well versed; this comparative lack of early exposure is one big reason why women leave—or never join—the field.
The solution is simple: We have to start teaching STEM and computer science to middle school girls early on, so they have an equal footing with men when they enter college. We have to get them interested in the field early, by showing them that programming can align with their interests and be fun. Unless we start preparing our girls for a future in technology since childhood, the STEM and tech gender gap will persist.