There’s a lot of buzz out there about the need for more women in technology roles – and we couldn’t agree more! Women bring different perspectives and focus to technology jobs, often resulting in better outcomes than a team of all-male technologists. Great! But (…and you knew there was a “but” coming), the tech world won’t see better results if they can’t keep women from leaving as fast as they start!
For years we’ve been reading articles citing the #1 reason women leave tech jobs is the isolation. Could the 4-1 (or 10-1) ratio of men to women in tech be to blame? — Leaving women feeling they have no real peers that think (or look) as they do. In some cases, women report their male colleagues seem almost threatened by their perspective – sometimes disregarding their input as untrusted or uninformed.
The LA Times cites an “unwelcoming” (and thus isolating) environment as the big reason women leave the industry – everything from being assigned less interesting tasks than male counterparts and being excluded from conversations to a “guys” culture and lack of clear career path.
The challenge starts earlier than the workplace. Keeping young women in tech while still in college plays a part here. Women entering Computer Science often have less hands-on CS experience than their male peers. They find themselves as one of 5 women in a classroom of 60 with little or no access to female mentors and leaders. Despite this, they are faced with an expectation (from peers and professors) to progress at the same pace as their male counterparts – who may be long-time gamers and hackers. The experience often leaves them feeling intimidated and sapped of confidence. It is not surprising that many opt to change majors.
So what’s the solution?
Likely the solutions are many rather than just one. Earlier exposure, ongoing support, and advocacy are three critical elements to engaging and keeping women in technology.
1. Early Exposure
The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit passionate about helping and empowering women to succeed in the Cybersecurity field – supporting each other through every step of the career journey. WSC provides women with the resources and support required to enter and advance as a cyber security professional using a holistic approach to developing programs that train women in both the hard technical skills and soft skills.
WSC’s Cyberjutsu Girls Academy program works with girls as early as age 10 building confidence and expanding interest in tech to boost the numbers of peers young women have for collaboration and support in college and beyond.
How can you get involved? For more information or to sponsor a WSC program, visit http://womenscyberjutsu.org.
2. Ongoing support
Excella’s Extension Centers supports computer science study at Virginia Tech and University of Maryland – providing small-group mentoring and training with real-world projects in a supportive environment. The small groups allow students to ask questions in context of the tasks at hand rather than having to save up a list of questions for a TA.
The Extension Center (XC) offers students an opportunity to gain practical experience while they study – saving our clients time and money on their software development projects.
How can you get involved? The Extension Center approach includes a combination of on-site and campus-based team members. Think the XC can work for you? Check out – https://www.excella.com/services/software-development/extension-center.
In the workplace, male advocates for women in tech roles can be a BIG part of the solution. Men who listen to stories of women’s experiences become more aware of biases and situations they may not have noticed before – often inspiring them to become advocates.
How can you get involved? The National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) has a great resource for creating advocacy programs here: https://www.ncwit.org/resources/read-online-maleadvocate.
Lisa Foreman-Jiggetts, Founder & CEO, Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu
Mari Galloway, Director, Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu
Margaret Archer, Extension Center Director, Excella Consulting