Amid all the hand-wringing about the dearth of women in technology, a new initiative called “Girls Who Code” aims to do something about it. It’s also attracted the backing of a number of tech titans, including Twitter, Google and eBay.
The eight-week program, which begins this month, seeks to expose 20 teen girls from underserved communities in New York City to intensive tech courses such as web development, robotics and app development.
And although the program is launching in New York City, its goal is to expand to other major cities next year.
One Effort Leads to Another
Program founder Reshma Saujani, a former deputy public advocate in New York City, says that during her unsuccessful 2010 run for U.S. Congress she saw the latest technology and labs in wealthier neighborhoods, such as Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But in poorer neighborhoods, Saujani would find situations like one computer in a church basement.
Saujani told The Wall Street Journal:
Women are going to be left behind. Technology has the potential to create income inequity and we need to do something about it.
And she told The Huffington Post:
From the beginning, we wanted to create this sisterhood…No doubt they’ll need it with the “brogrammer” culture too often at play.
According to the Girls website, 54 percent of college graduates are women but they make up just 14 percent of computer science grads. Part of the effort will focus on creating a culture for success.
Even with the low numbers of women coming out of college with tech degrees, there are more sobering statistics as women pursue their careers:
- In May, the unemployment rate for women in computer and mathematical occupations stood at 6.8 percent, compared 2.3 percent for men.
- The percentage of CIOs who are women dropped from 11 percent in 2011 to 9 percent this year, according to a recent Harvey Nash survey.
- Thirty percent of 450 companies in the Harvey Nash poll said their IT departments have no women in management positions at all.
In research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee of 3,700 women engineers who had left the field, a third left because they didn’t like the workplace climate, their boss or culture while almost half left because of working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary. (They could choose more than one answer). And despite stereotypes about women’s family obligations, only one in four women cited that as a reason for leaving the field.