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The gender gap in tech is getting worse but it's fixable

Sharon Florentine | Oct. 27, 2016
New research from Accenture and Girls Who Code, released at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last week, reveals that the gender gap in tech is actually getting worse. Here's what you can do to fix it.

Spark interest in junior high

Today's junior high school girls have the potential to fill 1.6 million extra computing positions by 2025 -- twice the potential of high school and college girls combined, according to the research. Greater guidance from parents and teachers can show girls that computing is cool, fun and a means to realize their aspirations, not just a pursuit for their male counterparts. One recommendation from the research is to boost girls' hands-on experience through computer games specifically designed for girls.

"I'm lucky, in a sense, because in my industry the major role models have been women; in design, PR, fashion. But when it comes to tech, that's not the case. Girls, especially junior high girls, are still seeing the trope of the guy in a hoodie who hasn't showered and drinks too much Red Bull. We have to change the way these careers are marketed. This is one of the sexiest things you can pursue -- it's the Wild West, or a beauty company or a makeup company. Look at [supermodel and businesswoman] Coco Rocha. Look at [supermodel and digital native] Karlie Kloss -- these are women who leverage technology every day," Minkoff says.

Sustain engagement in high school

The high school years tend to be a time of high risk, where girls fall into the "high school trap," losing interest in computing and never returning to the field, the research showed. Recent research from CompTIA also showed that girls and young women's interest in technology declined as much as 30 percent upon entering high school.

Among the recommended interventions is the idea for a summer camp where girls study computing with their female friends -- and/or further investment in programs like Girls Who Code and other organizations providing similar programs. The research found that 81 percent of high school girls who studied computing over the summer were interested in studying it at college, compared to 52 percent who only studied computing at school.

Inspire a career after college

While the college years are critical to exposing women to career opportunities, the research found that the door to computing careers never closes, as girls can learn computer science skills post-college even if they've had no previous formal education. In fact, more than half the women working in computing profiled in the research didn't major in computer science in college. One recommendation from the research: Offer all undergraduates, not just computing/technology majors, on-campus and summer immersion programs in computing and/or coding.

The demand for computing skills in the workplace far outstrips supply, plaguing U.S. employers with a talent shortage, the research showed. In 2015, for example, there were more than 500,000 open computing jobs to be filled in the U.S. but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them. The untapped potential of women to fill these roles has vast implications for U.S competitiveness.

 

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