When the Charlottesville Women in Technology (CWiT) team first contacted Opensource Connections (OSC) about whether or not we wanted to sponsor CWiT for the year, to be honest I knew very little about the details of gender inequality in Science and Technology and even less about ways to help address that inequality. And I felt kind of bad that I didn’t know this information, being a woman in technology myself. I have certainly supported gender equality in other areas in the past, and when we made the decision to sponsor CWiT I was happy to get involved and learn more.
And so I went to my first meeting of CWiT just a few months ago. And in my short time attending CWiT meetings, I have met many amazing women and learned a great deal about gender equality in the Science and Tech fields.
A few things that I have learned about gender inequality are:
Gender inequality in Science and Technology fields is really pronounced. REALLY pronounced. The percentage of Computer Science college graduates that were women in 2012 was around 18%. Read more about this here.
Gender inequality in Science and Technology has only gotten worse since the mid 1980’s. In 1984/85 the percentage of Computer Science degrees conferred to women was around 37%. That means in the past 20 years, gender inequality in Computer Science has not improved, but has actually gotten worse dropping by 19% points. Read more about this here.
Girls’ interest often turns away from Science and Technology in middle school. A 2009 American Society for Quality poll of kids ages 8-17 found that 24 percent of boys but only 5 percent of girls were interested in an engineering career. Read more about this here. Various sources indicate that this decline is due to a number of factors, including lack of role models as well as social pressure to focus on other things in middle school.
But there are actions we can take to address this gender inequality for women now and for our girls growing to be women in the future. Here are just a few that stand out for me:
Encourage girls to explore science and technological fields. There are a number of programs both locally and nationally to work on addressing this:
Tech-Girls: Tech-Girls is about nurturing girls interest in STEM. They work with girls and provide hands on activities that will engage their natural curiosity about technology. They work with parents, teachers and other partners to provide training resources and relationships to support the girls in this effort. To learn more check them out at http://www.tech-girls.org.
Girls Excited about Math and Science (GEMS): GEMS is a UVA organization comprised of university students majoring in science, mathematics or engineering fields. They conduct weekly hands-on experiments and focus on a new aspect of science and technology each week, as well as have an annual science fair. Their goal is to foster an interest in STEM fields for young women and show them how much fun science can be! For more information check them out at https://atuva.student.virginia.edu/organization/girlsexcitedaboutmathandscience.
Encourage women to explore science and technological fields! One great group that does just this is Girl Develop It. Girl Develop it is a non-profit that exists to provide affordable and judgement free opportunities for adult women interested in learning web and software development. To learn more check it out at https://www.girldevelopit.com.
Encourage diversity in the workplace by giving women a chance in technological and leadership roles. Leaders of both genders need to give women applicants a real chance at the jobs that are out there. This means that hiring managers need to take a close look at women candidates as well when making hiring decisions.
Leaders of both genders need to make the modern technological workplace friendly to both women and men. This means a wide variety of things to a wide variety of people and includes things like allowing schedule flexibility and access to good health care, but can include other things as well. Leaders need to listen to the people they lead and adjust the modern workplace to work for those people.
OSC is not the model of gender equality. We are a small firm and our percentage of women employees is about average for a computer software firm, but we are working on it. We are committed to making changes in our own organization and working to be part of the solution in the larger science and technology community.
OSC is proud to sponsor CWiT this year and to support their work to bring these issues to the forefront to give us all a chance to address them. We hope that by doing this, we can help level address the current gender inequality, and hopefully balance that out for future generations. If you’d like to learn more about Charlottesville Women in Tech, please check them out at their website http://www.charlottesvillewomenintech.com.