What Women Really Want from a Tech Career – and Why Education is Only the Beginning

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The dearth of women in technology has been a hot topic for many years. There have been numerous creative ways to attract women to technology-related jobs. Despite all the outreach, scholarships, STEM education, and outreach, women remain woefully underrepresented within technology, especially IT.
What is the answer?

It’s not about whether women should have more opportunities in tech careers or not. The question is how to attract more women to the field. It seems that the answer is not about getting girls into computer science early on, but rather about getting women to express their needs and giving them what they want.
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Start with Education
A lot of the discussion about attracting women into technology has been focused on education and getting girls interested STEM subjects in elementary school. This has some merit, but despite the best efforts by educators, only 18 percent of computer science graduates are women.
Girls Who Code, an organization that was founded in 2011 to encourage girls to study computer science, has made some progress in attracting young women into the field. Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, points out that girls often face two major obstacles when it comes to pursuing STEM careers over the long-term.
Popular culture tells girls STEM is not for them. It’s not trendy, not socially acceptable, or even “geeky”.
Uncertainty about the technology industry today and the various roles and opportunities available to them.
This means that many girls believe that working in tech is about being confined to a basement where you can code all day.
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Many women who work in technology find that the stereotypes are true to some degree. Even women with the right education and experience to lead, who have worked hard to obtain IT certifications and are well-versed in their roles, often don’t get the same respect as their male counterparts.
Many people report that working in a male-dominated industry can affect their confidence. They may not be able to seek out opportunities or pursue them, or feel comfortable asking for a higher salary or more responsibility. It’s not surprising that women only make up about 20% of the workforce at some of the largest technology companies in the world, such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.
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Change the Conversation
The answer to attracting women to technology is not in education alone, but in culture change. This includes both within the field and on a larger scale. A recent survey found that women identify several key areas in which they want to see improvements in their tech careers.
Flexibility in the Work Schedule
IT is not viewed as a 9-to-5 job. However, women are more likely to refuse to work traditional hours than men. Women are most concerned about a flexible schedule that allows them to have a better work-life balance.
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More Mentors and Role Models for Females
Women who feel excluded from the workplace or under pressure to be “one the guys” often feel frustrated by a lack of support. A female-friendly culture that encourages women to be hired creates more role models and, in turn, more women within the company.
Additional Support for Education
Women want to learn more but the current culture makes it difficult for them to invest the time and effort to acquire new skills or certifications. It is important to create a culture where education and training are not only encouraged but also supported with tools and financial aid.
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Increased awareness and efforts to combat sexism
Studies show that over half of women who enter technology leave within the first ten year. This is often due to sexism or a lack of opportunities. Companies that want to attract and keep women in technology must work harder to recognize sexism, and find solutions.
Diversification has been a major focus of many companies.

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