It’s one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying job fields in the United States, but whether computer science positions can attract enough female applicants to fill a noticeable void has become a concern for tech companies.
The lack of gender diversity is reflected in the ratio of employees at four tech giants that released worker diversity data, according to a 2014 article from tech news site ReadWrite.
At Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn male employees vastly outnumbered females, the article said.
- Google: 70% male, 30% female
- LinkedIn: 61% male, 39% female
- Yahoo: 62% male, 37% female (1% undisclosed)
- Facebook: 69% male, 31% female
All four companies have focused recruiting efforts to bring the gender disparity into balance, according to ReadWrite.
Why are so few women pursuing computing degrees or positions?
One theory is they may not understand the equitable balance that such jobs can provide between work and personal life. Another points to a lack of female role models, while other ideas point to women believing stereotypes that typecast computer programmers as white males, according to the ReadWrite article.
To educate potential applicants about the advantages of tech jobs, some startups are focusing on better informing young women about opportunities available in the tech industry – an effort sometimes called “Girl Tech.”
Their aim is to make technology more “girl friendly” in an effort to cultivate interest and enthusiasm at a younger age and dispel the notion the field is for men only.
Inspiring Females through ‘Girl Tech’
One such example is Jewelbots, a programmable friendship bracelet for teen and tween-age girls that encourages them to start learning how to code.
The technology is designed to inspire creativity and includes LED lights that illuminate when another friend is nearby. With the bracelets, girls can talk to other female friends in computer language similar to Morse code, interact on social media and perform other computing tasks. The target age group is 9 to 14 years old, according to the Education Week website.
Vidcode, an online software, introduces young girls to programming while promoting confidence in their computer abilities. The software allows users to upload personal videos and then be tutored on how to write codes to add effects, manipulate images and other simple tasks before sharing the finished product with friends.
Then there is Alice, software that teaches children 8 and older how to use 3-D animation and programming to create a story, play a game or share a video online. By incorporating fundamental programming techniques into the exercise of animating 3D objects, users experience real-time interaction and can view the results immediately.
In the case of Technovation Challenge, a technology entrepreneurship program for young girls around the world, users are asked to build a mobile application that can address a community issue. According to the program’s website, more than 3,000 girls from 28 countries have submitted projects since 2010.
Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization trying to encourage more young women to learn computing skills while in high school.
According to the organization’s website, the disparity between girls in middle school who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math and those who pick a STEM college major while in high school is staggering. Girls Who Code states that while 74% of girls express an interest while in middle school, less than 1% actually select computer science when it’s time to choose their college major.
These efforts and others may help bridge the divide between interest and education, and help populate the computer sciences field with more female applicants.
Garnering female workers is an important step in meeting demand in the computer sciences field. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of computer systems analysts nationwide will jump 21% by 2024, or about the time today’s tweens will be entering college or the workforce.