Hi nerds, I’m Sara and I’m a girl developer, or a “gerd” if you will. I am an ASP.NET/C#/SQL software engineer. I like to think I have lots of hats though. I’ve worked on all different sized projects, high volume and low volume sites. Different types of databases. One thing that is very unique about the project I am on right now is that I’m doing it all by myself! I am used to working with a team of awesome developers. Sara is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 21 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

This is Why We Need More Women in Technology

10.11.2012
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This blog post has been in the corners of my mind and nipping at my ankles for a while. Please don't linkbait it, or pick comment fights. This isn't for upvotes. 

Many people I meet ask me a variant of this question: "I understand we want more women in technology, but why?" It's a great question, and not at all something we should be offended by. Often men are afraid to ask questions like this for fear there will be backlash, and I think that fear can lead to the stiffling of an important conversation.

Frankly, the internet is thriving without women building it, why should that change? 

I put together the following answer for a Quora thread. I thought it would be advantageous to put it here, too, so I (and maybe you) can reference it in the future. 

I think the reason why we need more women building technology is threefold, I will outline below.

You will notice I stay away from generalizations like "women are better at xyz," because such generalizations imply that we therefore must be worse at other things that men may be able to do better. I don't think approching the argument that way is productive.


Diversity leads to better products and results

As illustrated in the Cornell study included below and many more to be found online, diversity improves performance, morale, and end product. More women engineers means building a better internet, and improving software that can service society as a whole. Building a better internet is why I started doing software development in the first place, I think we can all agree this is of utmost importance.

(source: http://web.mit.edu/cortiz/www/Diversity/PDFs/Jehn%20et%20al%201999.pdf)

The internet is the largest recording of human history ever built

Right now the architecture for that platform is being built disproportionally by white and asian males. You've heard the phrase "he who writes history makes history"? We don't yet know how this will affect future generations.

How can architecture be decidedly male? I like to refer to the anecdotal story of the Apple Store glass stairs. While visually appealing one unforeseen consequence to their design was the large groups of strange men that spend hours each day sitting under them looking up. As a women, the first time I saw them I thought "thank god I'm not wearing a skirt today." Such considerations were not taken in designing these stairs, I think it's probable, if not easily predictable, that in a few years we will see such holes in the design of the web. 

Women in 10 years need to be able to provide for themselves, and their families

Now, this reason is purely selfish on the part of women, but we all have mothers, and sisters, so I hope we can relate. 

This year there are 6 million information technology jobs in the US, up from 628,600 in 1987 then 1.34 million in 1997. Right now jobs in technology have half the unemployment rate of the rest of the workforce. There is no sign this will change anytime soon. If growth continues at the current rate, it will not be long until women will not be able to sustain themselves if not involved in a technical field.

We have to start educating young girls about this now, or they may ultimately become the poorest demographic among us.

I hope this has been educational for you, if this is something that you have debated. If you have any thoughts please share.  

Sources: http://www.gao.gov/corresp/he98159r.pdf, http://media.dice.com/report/july-2012-top-tech-talent-gaps/http://www.bls.gov/ooh/About/Projections-Overview.htm
 
Published at DZone with permission of Sara Chipps, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Orlin Gueorguiev replied on Fri, 2012/10/12 - 2:35am

I do find Your arguments quite compelling. Especially the first argument: "Diversity leads to better products and results". Women and men do think differently. They do see the world through a different perspective. This difference can be a great help, when used correctly. And this is the trick. The more different types of ideas/world views/needs/etc there are, the harder it is to control it and to focus all the energy in the right place, on the right spot, during the right time. Not all managers/team leaders can handle it and harness the possibilities. Once more women start to come in the IT sector we will see horror stories from managers and developers who cannot cope with this change. However I do believe that this change is needed and ultimately will have a great positive effect both on the economy as well on my fellow programmers.

Will Soprano replied on Fri, 2012/10/12 - 10:16am

Well written, Sara!  I don't think I'm alone when I say that the IT industry is the modern factory.  It's the basis for everything we do and it's about time that women join in the development of it! 

Andy Jefferson replied on Sun, 2012/10/14 - 2:58am

Diversity certainly does lead to better products, and (sadly) there are many male IT developers who adopt a black or white attitude to technologies, often underlining their opinions with aggression, forcing projects to use what they are comfortable with (just look at posts on many software forums as examples of some of the attitudes involved, showing complete lack of respect for others in the industry). Having other opinions around would provide for a far more mature debate of what should be used, and of selecting the best tool for the job.

Jim Lombardo replied on Mon, 2012/10/15 - 9:17am

Great post Sara; I couldn't agree more with your observations. However, as a college programming instructor I see we are having trouble recruiting women for IT courses. On average I get only 10-15% females in my classes. Somehow we've got to make technical careers more attractive to women.

Will Soprano replied on Mon, 2012/10/15 - 9:39am in response to: Jim Lombardo

Jim, I think it's more an issue for the education system than the jobs themselves.  I think the education system needs to make the classes/careers in the tech world more appealing to women so that they get the training/education needed to apply for the tech jobs.  I say this because I think that tech jobs aren't "unappealing" to women.

Jim Lombardo replied on Mon, 2012/10/15 - 10:12am in response to: Will Soprano

You're right, I should have said "somehow we've got to make technical education more attractive to women."

Michael Schaefer replied on Tue, 2012/10/16 - 12:49pm

Wonderful article. As a father of a teenage daughter, I plan on making her read this. I want her to understand the value of financial independence. Thank you.

Michael Schaefer replied on Tue, 2012/10/16 - 1:10pm

We might want to begin by encouraging women to comment on DZone.   :)

Amrita Red replied on Fri, 2012/10/19 - 10:07am

compelling argument. we do need more women in the industry, and not only on the QA team.

I've seen  women on business analysts team more because may be communication and organization comes naturally to women? But nonetheless, I'd like to see more on the development team.

Horse Badorties replied on Sat, 2012/10/20 - 1:58am

I see it all backwards, I'm afraid, after 30 years in the biz. The industry has major downward salary and prestige pressures from worldwide labor arbitrage, and memristors are going to make everyone with current knowledge horse&buggy-whip specialists. This industry is a lousy choice for talented students.

 

 

 

Lily Marlene replied on Thu, 2013/01/17 - 8:45am

I know a lot of women that are involved in a technical field and they have very good salaries, when my daughter told me she wants to search for traditionally sought nursing degrees after she will finish high-school it was a shock for me. I thought she will be interested in pursuing a career in technology but she told me she wants to help people, it`s her decision after all and I cannot interfere.

Jaffa Wify replied on Thu, 2013/06/06 - 5:13am

 Some are responsible for breakthrough inventions or discoveries that revolutionized science. In fields such as chemistry, physics, computers, mathematics, medicine and astronomy, women have often excelled. It is unfortunate that some of these wonderful achievements are forgotten or ignored. In recent years, women have been more actively participating in science than ever before.Thank you.
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