career

Girls For Tech: Social Media Campaign

The Problem

When looking at the source of the lack of women in the tech industry, we can be overwhelmed by the large number of possibilities. One major reason for this gender difference falls back to young girls who may not even be aware of the opportunities available for them in the expanding tech career field. Often times, young  girls don’t even consider entering into tech careers because of deeply entrenched stereotypes that the jobs are anti-social and unimaginative (Miller, 2014). According to study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), high school age girls believe that high school computing belongs to boys who have been using computers and playing computer games since they were in elementary school. Because of this universal stereotype, many young girls lack the desire to participate in computer science activities. Only 18.5% of high school girls take the AP computer science exam. In 2013, only 14% of all computer science graduates were women, which is down from 36% in 1984 (Tiku, 2014).

The Goal

The goal is to tackle this problem by spreading awareness that there are opportunities for young girls in tech through social media platforms. My hope is to gain a significant following by working through databases from local female empowerment initiatives. One such initiative is an organization called The Fairy Godmother Project. This project seeks to empower young women to recognize their own significance and pushes them to make wise choices. In pairing with groups like this, as well as hands-on STEM and technology training through Dr. Cristal Glangchai’s Venture Labs, the most optimistic outcome of this solution would be that young girls from all over the city would become more involved in technology classes and have a more positive view of pursuing tech careers in the future.

Realistically, this solution may only be able to reach a small handful of young women, but the effect can make a difference, even if it is only one young lady. By including strong female role models in the campaign, the goal is to have someone relatable and  appealing that can help illuminate their minds to the endless possibilities in the tech industry.

The Solution

The solution is to target high school age girls through social media such as, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in order to begin raising awareness of the misconceptions about tech careers. For many of these young girls, this may be the first time that anyone even suggested they pursue a career in technology. One of the major features of the campaign would include posting about startling facts about the industry through visual statistics. Another feature would be providing information on Venture Labs and The Fairy God Mother Project, as well as provide examples of successful everyday women in the tech industry.

After creating the pages and accounts for the different social media platforms, I was able to gain a small following in a short amount of time with close to 50 followers on Instagram, 5 likes on the Facebook Page, and 10 followers on Twitter.

Here are some examples from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

IMG_6675 IMG_6671


Works Cited

American Association of University Women. (2000). Tech-Savvy: Educating girls in the new computer age.Washington, DC: Author

Miller, C. (2014, April 5). Technology’s Man Problem. New York Times.

Tiku, N. (2014). How to Get Girls Into Coding. Retrieved December 8, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/how-to-get-girls-into-coding.html?_r=2

Why Women Leave Tech Careers

We often hear of the shortage of women in the science, engineering, and technical (SET) fields and it is easy to be discouraged by such dismal statements. However, we are wrong to assume that these smart, tech-savvy women are not attracted to this career field. In fact between the ages of 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in science and technology are female.[1] This is surprising news, given the fact that we tend to underestimate how many women are in these fields. And yet, of these women more than half leave their careers in their mid-30s to early 40s. Why is that?

In an interview with Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York, Hewlett re-examines some of the factors that contribute to this claim. Hewlett is best known for her work on a research project called the Athena Factor[2], a global study that examines the career trajectories of women in these SET fields. The study found that women are instrumental to the industry, often more likely to than their male counterparts to value contributing to society. So what happens later on down the road for these women? The falling out happens through what Hewlett outlines as 5 key factors or “antigens” that include: hostile macho cultures, isolation, mysterious career paths, systems of risk and reward, and extreme work pressures.[3]

Each of these adversities are problems that cannot always be addressed so easily, especially when it comes to changing the ingrained mindsets of the macho culture. The manner in which women are treated branches out through these instilled stereotypes. In order for women to overcome these issues, I believe that there must be more women in leadership, who in turn mentor the younger, entry-level women who are in danger of feeling “stuck or stalled” in these fields. If there were more respected female role models in higher positions, the younger women would be more inclined to stick through the negativity because there would be a clearer picture of what their own careers could achieve.

[1] Melymuka, K. (2008, June 16). Why Women Quit Technology. Computerworld. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.computerworld.com/article/2551969/it-careers/why-women-quit-technology.html

[2] CTI Athena 2.0 Launch. (2014). YouTube. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=farVyP3vgBA

[3] Hewlett, S. A. (2008). The Athena factor: reversing the brain drain in science, engineering, and technology. Boston: Harvard Business School.

Prominence and Power Positions

In July of 2013 Samara Lynn released an article titled “There Are Plenty of Women in Tech, You Just Haven’t Noticed”. In her article, Lynn makes the argument that the “real” problem with Women in Tech is the lack of social media representation, attention and approval given to the women occupying actual “techie” jobs.[1] However many people have argued that even when women do manage to enter the tech industry, they are pushed into management and business roles rather than purely technical positions. This raises the question: which of the two claims is true? Are women more inclined to take on jobs that require “soft-skills,” or are “techie” women simply underrepresented?

Lynn writes that “whenever I come across one of those ‘Top Women in Tech’ lists… it’s usually filled with ambiguous titles such as Director of Citizen Participation. Where are the programmers, system administrators, storage gurus, or networking engineers?” This seems to at least acknowledge the claim that women in tech generally take on the role of “managing people and bridging the business and engineering divide.”[2]

While personally perusing Forbes’ list of “Most Powerful Women in Tech” by Zheyan Ni, this claim certainly seems to ring true.  The list consists of eighteen women focused exclusively on COOs, CEOs, CFOs, Presidents and Chair Members.[3] And while this ranking is very likely be dependent on an association between these particular titles and power, it is noteworthy that none of the women on the list were coders or engineers; people who according to Miller “get the respect in the tech industry.”

I certainly agree with Lynn’s claim that women are just as capable as men in occupying “techie” jobs, however the title of her article is misleading. The fact remains that only “twenty percent of software developers are women… Comparatively, 56 percent of people in business and financial operations jobs are women.”2 According to Harvey Mudd’s President, Maria Klawe, women tend to stray away from careers in technology because they think it’s not interesting, they think they won’t be good at it, and they think they will be working with a number of people that they just wouldn’t feel comfortable of happy working with.[4] With those three major contributing factors in mind it’s no surprise that women would feel more comfortable pursuing careers in management or business considering that according to the United States Department of Labor “the largest percentage of employed women (40.6 percent) worked in management, professional, and related occupations.” Simply put- these fields are far less male-dominated than technology, and by extension more accessible and inviting towards women.

[1] Lynn, Samara. “There Are Plenty of Women in Tech, You Just Haven’t Noticed.” PCMag.com 24 July 2013. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2422200,00.asp&gt;.

[2] Miller, Claire. “Technology’s Man Problem.” New York Times 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?_r=0&gt;.

[3] Ni, Zheyan. “The Most Powerful Women In Tech 2014.” Forbes 28 May 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/zheyanni/2014/05/28/the-most-powerful-women-in-tech-2014/&gt;.

[4] Fidelman, Mark. “Here’s the Real Reason There Are Not More Women in Technology.”Forbes 5 June 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/06/05/heres-the-real-reason-there-are-not-more-women-in-technology/&gt;.