Dear Silicon Valley: Here’s how to create more “IT Girls”

Although career opportunities in computing and information technology (IT) are on the rise, representation of women in this sector is actually declining.  That’s a detriment not only to women, but also to the tech industry and society in general.  After all, women account for nearly HALF of all working adults.

By the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available in the U.S., but less than 50,000 U.S. women with computer science degrees to fill them. So, what’s a girl to do? Can we convince our next generation of young women to embrace IT and computing?  We have a few thoughts on how Silicon Valley can create more “IT Girls.” But first, a bit of context.

google-sf-office
Google, San Fransisco

GOOGLE’S $50 MILLION INVESTMENT

Over the past few weeks, the issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in Silicon Valley has commanded major news headlines.  Several tech giants including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google disclosed how many women and minorities they currently have on the payroll.  While the numbers were dismal for all, Google has taken a proactive stance and promised to take the road less traveled by launching “Made With Code,” (MWC) a $50 million initiative to teach young girls how to code.  The goal?  As the name suggests, MWC aims to close the tech industry’s gender gap by increasing the number of girls interested in computer science and jobs that require coding.

Google’s 3-year commitment will offer a dedicated website with resources and projects, community forums, mentoring, and information about regional events.  The company has also enlisted the support of organizations such as Girl Scouts of the USA, Girls Inc., and the National Center for Women and Information Technology, among others. And what’s a major PR campaign without a little star power? Comedian Mindy Kaling and former first-daughter (now philanthropist) Chelsea Clinton have also signed on to support the effort.

In an interview with TechCrunch, MWC’s official media partner, Google representatives site a number of reasons why girls are not interested in code-related jobs.

IS $50 MILLION ENOUGH?

Undoubtedly, programs like MWC offer a positive first step toward sparking young girls’ interest in technology.  Looking toward the future, here are a few additional ideas to consider:

1. Get an early start:  Broaden the appeal of computer science, engineering, and physics by making it more interesting to girls an early age. The sooner the better. High school is an ideal time to teach core math and computing skills and instill the confidence to pursue an exciting career in technology.

2. Show the possibilities:  Expose young girls to the depth and breadth of career opportunities in the industry. Young women download millions of mobile apps, visit cool online destinations, and buy Web-based products and services, too.  Many are not aware that IT pros are powering the brands they love and use every day.

3. Diffuse stereotypes: Let’s face it. The stereotypical image of an IT professional is a white, socially awkward male. When young girls are exposed to role models and successful women to look up to, they will increasingly consider the tech industry as a viable option.

4. Proactively recruit her:  At the core of any company culture is its people.  In order to attract and retain talented young women, companies should develop targeted, proactive recruiting strategies. This requires clearly communicating she will be treated equitably in the workplace. Young women don’t want preferential treatment, they simply want to be valued.

While women have lost ground when it comes to getting computer science degrees in the U.S. – a challenge when it comes to finding employment in well-paying tech roles –  we think there is hope. By collectively doing our part to achieve the goals above, we can nurture the next generation of “IT Girls” who ultimately change the world through technology.

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