I have been approached by Teza Technologies to talk about Computer Science Education Week which took place December 7th-13th. According to Teza, 57% of all girls say they don’t typically consider a career in STEM, and Teza is working to change that. The focus of this mission is on why women in STEM and STEM education is important. This is a topic very close to my heart and I agreed to spread the word here on my blog because I want to help raise awareness in why having women in STEM is so important.
In the U.S., only 12% of engineers are women, and more than half of school-aged girls don’t consider careers in engineering or STEM. Misha Malyshev, Teza Technologies CEO, partners with nonprofits to provide hands-on opportunities for K-12 students, especially young women, to learn about STEM. Girl Day takes place on February 25th and is a chance to encourage girls to pursue engineering education, and to celebrate about the important work engineers do all over the world.
Also my personal experience confirms these statistics. I wrote about this topic and my experience some time ago in this post How I ended up in Computer Science. I studied mathematics and computer science in high school and also later in the university. Kids pursuing computer science were called wierdoes when I registered at the high school and I was even asked why I chose this field because only boys do computer science. Out of 30-40 pupils in the class we were only 4-5 girls. Some of these girls changed majors after the first year and others I’ve talked to during that time already decided that they will not pursue careers in tech after finishing school.
Also today at work I meet many young women who studied Computer Science but choose not to start programming jobs and instead take on other roles at the company. I mentored one young girl fresh out of the academy for 6 months and tried to inspire her to learn coding and pursue a career as a programmer but she decided eventually to go back to university and study archaeology. Her heart was always with archaeology but she tried computer science because it’s a good path for the future. I also tried many times to convince my female colleagues in the integration test team to start coding but so far without success.
Changing the minds of adults when they already made up their mind about something is very hard. This is why it is so important to start at an early age and the new initiative for Girl Day, coming up on February 25th, that Teza is currently involved in helps with exactly that. Girl Day takes place during Engineers Week, a week dedicated to getting kids interested in engineering and celebrating the difference engineers make in the world. Girl Day is a special day devoted to showing girls the creative side of engineering and inspiring them to pursue engineering careers.
Girl’s Day is also in Europe an important initiative and it is a nationwide vocational orientation for girls starting from 5th grade with the opportunity to learn and test technical professions.
Also the company that I work for focuses on inspiring more girls to choose computing fields, participates in the Girl’s Day initiative and encourages women at the work place and in technical fields. Meet ups with women and for women are organized every month where we discuss different topics related to women at the work place and women in STEM. The company also provides many possibilities for new parents, both mommies and daddies, to juggle both business and personal life with paid maternity leave, parental leave and flexible part-time work hours.
I love this Ted talk by the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, about teaching girls bravery, not perfection:
President Barack Obama said in February 2013:
One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to. [Source]
This article Why It’s Crucial to Get More Women Into Science describes perfectly why women in STEM is so important:
Analysts say that more women are needed in research to increase the range of inventions and breakthroughs that come from looking at problems differently than men typically do.
Sara Chipps, the co-founder and CEO of Jewelbots, says here that kids should be forced to choose between engineer or princess because the opposite of science isn’t girl:
The whole idea behind getting more women into programming is to introduce diversity. The reason why diverse teams create better products is the different backgrounds and experiences they bring to the table.
Being a girl is okay. And being an engineer is awesome. Being a girly engineer is great and awesome.
Times are changing and I see more and more women helping women to succeed in the business world and in STEM. Women are using their technical skills and resources to build a platform for women in different areas like health and fitness, 5 Apps Designed By Women For Women:
Women in STEM — and tech in particular — have made headlines in the past few years because of the never ending battles against sexism that they fight within the education system and within their individual fields. The tired and patently false narratives which suggest girls can’t code, engineer, or design technology is enough to make your blood boil. However, there are women challenging gender stereotypes through their innovations, and they’re probably the creators behind apps you’re already using.
Many organizations are involved in helping women in tech and Women Who Code is a great example of a non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Women Who code connects women around the globe under the notion that the world of technology is much better with women in it. The key initiatives of Women Who Code is to provide free technical training in different programming languages, to give members the opportunity to raise their profile in the industry and to connect with women in the community. For example in 2014 Women Who Code gave members over $95,000 in free tickets to technical conferences and hackathons.
Also Girls Who Code is working to close the gender gap in technology and provides free programs to educate, inspire and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in the technology fields. Girls Who Code will host in summer 2016 record 78 summer immersion programs with tech industry leaders.
Finally I would like to leave you with this answer from Mark Zuckerberg and I hope that more will follow Mark’s example in supporting and encouraging girls and women in tech: