Why so few women in tech? #FemmeEntrepreneure N°42

FemmeEntrepreneure N° 42

With a more diverse workforce, scientific and technological products, as well as services and solutions, are likely to be better designed and to represent all users. To increase diversity, we need more women in technical fields. Attracting and retaining more women in STEEM careers like engineering will maximise worldwide creativity and competitiveness.

In a 2010 report, entitled “Why so few?”, @AAUW tried to find out why, while women are increasingly prominent in fields like medicine, law or business, so few of them are becoming scientists or engineers.

Almost 10 years later, that trend didn’t changed very much: women still represent only a small minority of working engineers and  “Why so few?” remains relevant.

In the UK, according to @GuardianLabs, women account for just 21% of the country’s STEM workforce. In USA, women account for only 24% of the computing workforce.

@LilianaCaraca quotes @nimit to point out that « we need more women in tech in order to get more women in tech ».

As an answer, @nirushika, UK expansion director for @WomenWhoCode, states: “We can’t have women who code if we don’t have girls who code”. Unfortunately, as @A_Taylorian underlines, “the future successes of women in coding and in all technology fields require that girls are confident that there is space for them in STEM classrooms”  but “boys are more likely to take engineering and computer science than their female counterparts”.

Why so few?

The @AAUW report provides evidence that social and environmental factors contribute to the under representation of women in science and engineering. Nowadays, multiple negative stereotypes persist and the effects of social beliefs impact girls’s achievement and interests in science and engineering.

Stereotypes about girls’s abilities in math discourage them to aspire STEEM careers: they hold themselves to higher standards than boys and believe they have to be exceptional to succeed in STEEM fields.

Culture can also influence perception of how a computer science student should look like. The iconic image of the computer scientist was for many years the asocial masculine geek: a person in love with computers, so myopically focused on them that he neglects everything else.

Actively countering stereotypes can lead to improvements in girls’s performance and interest in math and science, helping them trust that boys and men are not better in STEEM fields than them.

Girls need role models, and even @Barbie champion this idea, which resulted in a partnership between @Mattel, @BlackGirlsCode and @gotynker.

Most people associate science and maths with the male gender, humanities and arts with the female one and often hold negative opinions about women in « masculine » positions. Biases are still strong. People judge women to be less competent than men in “male” fields unless they are clearly and highly successful. But when a woman is seen as competent in a “masculine” job, she is then considered to be less likable. Because both likability and competence are needed for success in the work place, women in STEEM can find themselves in a double bin.

The problem isn’t just the pipeline, even when women embrace engineering careers, they appear to encounter challenges that contribute to them ending up leaving their career in STEEM industries: feeling of isolation, unsupportive work environment, persistent pay gap, unclear rules about advancement and success.

Mentoring contributes to prevent the feeling of isolation among young female engineers, and, for @ForbesLeaders, flexible work arrangements are also key to solving the brain drain issue and the lack of senior-level women in tech.

In the long way to reduce gender imbalance within the technical workforce, non-profit organizations like @WomenWhoCode, @CodeLikeaGirl, @BlackGirlsCode and @AAUW are making huge differences.

Tackling stereotypes, targeting education and female representation in tech, developing mentoring programs, they work closely with women to make them succeed within the industry but also with companies to help them improve their gender diversity.

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