women and technology

Retention – A Red Flag for Women in Technology

The Problem

One of the main issues across the board with women and technology is retention once they are employed in the field. Various women within the technology field, as well as texts related to the subject, have addressed this issue. Kathryn McClintock, from Amazee Labs, noticed that women are quitting at a rate of 57%. McClintock felt this desire to leave is a result of the macho culture and work pressure that females are facing today, reiterating her belief that the “bro culture” is the root of many problems with women in technology (McClintock, 2014). Amara Keller, from Intel, echoed this belief when she discussed retention on a more personal level. She explained how she had witnessed 5 females leave Intel due to problems with the male dominated culture (Keller, 2014). Erin Pettigrew, from Gawker, used an interesting metaphor that provided a new perspective on the issue. Pettigrew started by explaining how she viewed women in tech as market challengers while men could be seen as market leaders. She then went on to compare women in technology to Google doc and men as Microsoft office. Anyone who knows computers knows that Microsoft office is far more established than Google doc in regards to popularity and features. This comparison suggests the lack of women prevents them from rising to the level of men and, furthermore, having a significant presence in the technology field (Pettigrew, 2014). Amy McDonald-Sanjideh, from Google, pondered the reasons why women leave the technology field. She concluded it has to do with either career growth, the desire for more money, seeking a career change, dealing with a difficult manager or the decision to start a family (McDonald-Sanjideh, 2014) While all of these may be valid reasons, it still leaves us with a lack of women in technology as a result. As for readings that address this issue, Maria Klawe wrote an article called Women in Computing- Where Are We Now that explains the key stages women drop out of tech and reasons why they choose to leave. By explaining the problems women face at certain stages in their life, such as college, for example, it allows those in power during these difficult stages to understand the key problems and make adjustments accordingly (Klawe & Leveson, 1995). Finally, the article entitled Technology’s Man Problem by Claire Cain Miller, discussed how half of women in STEM leave. While this research is shocking in itself, it is even more discouraging that 51% leave to do something different while 49% remain in technology (Miller, 2014). The fact that more are choosing to leave the field suggests this is a problem that needs to be resolved with urgency.

The Intentioned Goal

The most optimistic outcome arising from this video would be a overwhelmingly positive response from women within the field that results in more women feeling inclined to join technology. This is the ideal response because the video would not only increases the retention rate but it has the potential to discourage women who were considering leaving the field from going through with that decision. Thinking realistically, however, the best outcome would be the influence that multiple viewings has on the general public in regards to getting people talking about this issue. These conversations, hopefully on the news, social media by using the hashtag (#) FlagIt or even on comments under the YouTube video, will increase awareness and prompt people to bring about change.

The Solution

In deciding upon a solution to this problem of retention, once can’t help but incorporate the recent technological advances in our society. Furthermore, in addition to these advances, there has been an increased presence online that is exemplified by visual storytelling. Large technology companies such as Microsoft and Google have been latching onto this trend by releasing videos that not only promote technology, but also provide a glimpse on women within their specific company. While some of these videos have gone viral and made an impact, the results could be greater.

A solution to improving the retention rate would be for some of the most influential tech companies to unite behind this cause and make a video that promotes women and technology. This video will be aired as a commercial in addition to being uploaded on every company’s YouTube account. The ideal companies for this project would be Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter as they individually have a reliable following and are all forces to be reckoned with in the technology community. This combined effort would suggest the companies are coming together for an amazing cause rather than only being concerned with the status of their own companies. Furthermore, their willingness to take a stand on such a controversial issue will ideally make a difference and inspire women to reconsider the next time they are ready to leave the technology field. In addition, having the same message distributed from six different platforms would allow this issue to reach people multiple times, considering many people use a combination of these companies, and the numerous viewings could potentially have a positive impact on viewers.

This movement can also become a social media campaign since half of the companies participating are a form of social media. At the end of the video, #FlagIt would be displayed on the screen in red. The hope is that, once released, the hashtag will trend as a result to the video trending. FlagIt is an acronym for Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter and the hashtag will be red to symbolize a red flag. Red flags usually signify a warning of danger or a problem and this is certainly relevant in regards to this issue. While FlagIt is an acronym for the companies involved, it is more important that people realize this is not an issue to take lightly and that if action is not taken fast, the technology field is in danger.

As for the specific layout of the video, there are a few necessary parts that will ensure a successful outcome. The first being the incorporation of women in the field.   The video will begin by following a woman at Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter. The footage would be edited together so even though we are following different women, it seems as if the viewer is receiving one perspective. This first part is meant to symbolize a day in the life of a women in the technology industry; therefore, it would be best to see some footage in a meeting or collaborative atmosphere to show how a woman’s opinion diversifies the workplace.

The next step is the incorporation of those in management. There would be a transition to those in higher positions in the office. Regardless if they are male or female, they can discuss the value of the women in their company and the desire for more. While the footage will be, again, edited together, it will be easy to identify which company the person is from due to their shirt or a lower graphic on the screen. This is critical because it reiterates that this video is for a greater cause, not something to promote one company in particular.

Most importantly, at the end, right when people are left wanting more and wondering how they can make a difference, #FlagIt will appear on the screen to act as an encouragement to keep the conversation going. Accompanied by the right music, this 3 minute video will allow an inside look into each of these companies that will trigger an emotional response from viewers. If successful, it not only has the potential to start a larger video campaign, but it can bring about the change that the technology industry so desperately needs.

 

Works Cited

Keller, A. (2014). Women in tech-what can you do? Personal Collection of (Amara Keller), Intel, Hillsboro, OG.

Klawe, M., & Leveson, N. (1995). Women in computing-where are we now? Communications of the ACM, 38(1), 29-35.

McClintock, K. (2014). Findings on women in tech. Personal Collection of (Kathryn McClintock), Amazee Labs, Austin, TX.

McDonald-Sandjideh, A. (2014). The tale of a texan in silicon valley. Personal Collection of (Amy McDonald-Sanjideh), Google, San Francisco, CA.

Miller, C. (April 5, 2014). Technology’s man problem. Retrieved December 6th from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?_r=0

Pettigrew, E. (2014). Problems with women in tech. Personal Collection of (Erin Pettigrew), Gawker, New York City, NY.

Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen, NASA

Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen is a robotics engineer in the Software, Robotics and Simulation division at NASA Johnson Space Center. On Wednesday, October 8 she gave a talk about “Exploring Space with Robots: Do We Need People?” to the Fall 2014 Lennox Seminar Women and Technology class at Trinity University.

 

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.

Women & Technology in the 1910s

Women's Trade Union League

Formed in 1903, the Women’s Trade Union League worked alongside the National American Woman Suffrage Association to demand safe working conditions, the eight hour work day, and respect for women both in and outside of the work place.

The photo above is courtesy of Cornell University’s Kheel Center.

For additional reading on the Women’s Trade Union click here.

factory

With Americas involvement in World War I in 1917, many women supported the war by entering the workforce, particularly as factory workers. The women in this photograph are inspecting automatic pistol parts.

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress.

For more information on the roles of women in WWI visit The National Women’s History Museum.

fire

During the War women not only took to the factories to do their part, but began occupying stereotypicaly masculine occupations in society such as fire-fighting. As seen in the image above entitled “Doing a Man’s Job: Women As War-Time Fire-Fighters” a group of women are seen practicing a drill.

The photo was published in National Geographic in 1917, and can be found through wikimedia.

Click here to see more images from the April 1917 issue of National Geographic.

electricity

While electricity remained expensive, the 1910s saw a surge of domestic electricity. As seen in this image, women were encouraged to see electricity as a means of using new, more “practical” and “efficient” electric powered home gadgets such as the electric clothes iron.

This image is courtesy of Museum Victoria. For more information on Home Life/ Electricity in the 1910s click here.

phone phonograph

Although the telephone was invented years earlier switchboard systems and the integration of electricity in the home highly increased the prominence of a home telephone in the 1910s. The telephone which was originally intended exclusively for business use soon became integrated as a form of social communication for all people, women in particular.

Both this advertisement (left), and the photo of a woman with the Edison Phonograph (right) were found through Pinterest and are fall under the creative commons licence.

Women and Technology in the 1970s

recording history #2-lillian schwartz

Above is artist Lillian Schwartz during the 1970s. Schwartz is considered a pioneer in the field of computer-generated art. Schwartz worked on what is known today as graphics, animation, special effects, multimedia, and more. For more information on Schwartz and her work visit her website with her biography and list of projects.

This photo was found posted in the section PORT of the site portlandart.net An exhibit in in Portland during 2011 featured some of Schwartz’s work.

 

 

Recording history #2-dishwasher

This advertisement comes from the 1970s and shows a woman as a decoration next to a dishwasher, rather than interacting with the appliance. This ad focuses on the fact that the appliances can now come in multiple colors. For more information on the household/technology relationship in the 20th century read this Association for Consumer Research report.

This ad was found on the digital platform Flashbak that aims to collect and display photos from the past.

 

 

recording history #2- megabyte micro

This advertisement is of the IMSAI Corp. that recognized the potential in the microcomputer industry early on. The rest of the article and another gallery shows more computer advertisements from the 1970s.

This ad was found on a website that identifies itself as a place that “helps IT decision-makers identify technologies and strategies to empower workers and streamline business processes.”

 

 

recording history #2-computer class

This is a photo from an early computer class at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. For more information read this Washington Post opinion piece that explores the role women played in computing through history, and why there are fewer women in tech today.

This photo was found in the Lindenwood University library. It and other photos from the class of 1970 can be viewed in this file.

 

 

recording history #2-IBM

This is a photo of “office personnel with an IBM System/34 data processing system in 1977.” Read this description from IBM for more information on the IBM System/34.

This photo was found in the IBM archives on women in technology.