According to recent statistics from the Department of Labor and the NCWIT, women are severely underrepresented in tech careers. Women make up only 25% of all computing occupations and just 21% of programming jobs. Despite research showing that companies with female leaders perform better, women hold a mere 9% of management positions in the information tech industry. These numbers are even smaller for women of color.
The statistics are disheartening. But they don’t signal defeat. Countless women have overcome these odds and emerged as industry experts. We reached out to 5 influential leaders who are driving diversity — and results — in the tech space. Here’s how they’re empowering the next generation of women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“There will be many instances, as you grow up, where you’ll be typecast. Your skills will be overlooked, your drive will be questioned, and your mettle will be tested. At every moment, you must decide whether you allow yourself to be limited by others. Take each of those moments to show the world what you’re capable of and that you will not come second to anybody. We believe in you.”
According to her resume, she’s a tech expert with vast experience in digital marketing and content strategy. But Adriana Gascoigne prefers a different title: social entrepreneur. Her passion for technology is driven by a desire to affect meaningful change. And her work with grassroots companies like change.org and democracy.com reflects just that. After successfully growing a series of start-ups, Gascoigne started her own nonprofit, Girls in Tech. The organization’s mission is threefold: To engage women in issues that impact their futures, to educate women through an advanced STEM curriculum and to empower women to find their voice within the industry.
Hear Gascoigne and her fellow STEM thought leaders speak at the upcoming Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference.
“Companies are very eager to have women in technology roles because they are more collaborative and they solve problems in unique ways. I’ve been told by CEOs of tech companies that their projects run better when they have women on the team… Believe that you deserve to be at the table.”
As an early adopter of online marketing, Trish Barber has spent a long time ahead of the curve. Before bringing industry expertise to her own start-up, 3 Ways Digital, Barber held multiple leadership positions with digital pioneer AOL. Though we’ve come a long way from the early days of the internet, Barber channels a similar innovative spirit as she helps her own clients dive into the digital marketplace. Currently, Barber serves as the president-elect of Women in Technology, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women of all levels excel in the tech field. Thanks to WIT, countless women have been connected with career-altering educational and networking opportunities.
Want to get involved with WIT? Check the online calendar for upcoming events.
“Technology is a tool for overcoming challenges, both great and small. Through the experience of using technology, middle school girls can tap into the creativity, passion and confidence that will help them grow into innovators and problem solvers. In this way, technology helps empower girls throughout their careers and lives.”
When it comes to empowering the next generation of tech leaders, Tracey Welson-Rossman leads by example. In her own career, she’s gained experience in everything from advertising sales to marketing channel management. But, her true passions lie in entrepreneurship and leadership. As the founder and CEO of TechGirlz, she plays to both strengths. TechGirlz creates opportunities for middle school girls to learn about technology, explore various career paths and develop mentoring relationships. Through educational workshops and annual events, the organization gives young women the confidence — and experience — to emerge as tomorrow’s tech leaders.
“Technology is one of the most exciting and fastest growing careers, and right now the tech industry is filled with brilliant women engineers who are doing amazing things every day. They’re building the future and you can too. Never give up your dreams and one day you will join their ranks and become a leader and a role model for the next generation.”
Alaina Percival is the CEO of Women Who Code, a nonprofit organization created to help women excel in technology careers. WWCode tackles the issue of industry-wide gender inequality in two ways. On one hand, it helps women develop relevant skills and build a strong network to obtain STEM careers. On the other, it helps tech companies looking to build diverse teams connect with talented women. This multi-faceted approach has proven wildly effective. Today, the organization has a community of 80,000 members in 20 countries across the world.
Join the WWCode community at the CONNECT 2017 developer conference, hosted in San Francisco.
“STEM companies need you! Research shows that companies with more diversity fare better in the global economy today, and you bring unique perspectives and approaches to problem-solving that would otherwise be absent in the STEM fields. You may encounter some bumps along the way. But by tackling those obstacles with grit and a collaborative spirit you’ll find that — in true STEM fashion — those drawbacks can become lessons learned and make you stronger and more resilient. STEM careers are interesting, important, challenging and lucrative, so get out there and fill them!”
As an educator, administrator and researcher with 25 years of experience in education, Karen Peterson brings a unique perspective to the National Girls Collaborative Project. Unsurprisingly, the nonprofit’s mission matches her own passion: to give underrepresented girls opportunities to explore STEM. As CEO of the NGCP, Peterson ensures that the organization stays true to this vision. Under her direction, the NGCP shares resources, research, program models and more with thousands of girl-serving STEM organizations across the U.S. To date, the NGCP has served more than 16 million girls — and brought us one giant leap closer to achieving gender equity in STEM industries.
If you’d like to learn more or get involved with a Collaborative in your area, check out ngcproject.org.
Ready to join them?
When we take a cursory glance at women in STEM, the numbers tell a story of exclusion. However, we can’t count out the companies, institutions and allies working tirelessly to level the playing field. In fact, the greatest strides toward a more inclusive industry come from leaders who’ve faced these challenges — and succeeded in spite of them. You’ve got their advice. Now, find your voice.