Fresh Perspectives: Women in Tech
Technology is about perspectives. The more perspectives we have as we begin to look at design problems, the greater the variety of solutions we have to explore. We employ user-centered design processes which are meant to help us address issues of diversity, gender, color, and demographics in pursuit of a well balanced piece of software designed to meet goals. Yet, for all of the forward thinking, inclusive methodologies we employ to solve external design problems, our internal metrics regarding gender diversity in the workplace have traditionally been much less future forward.
A numbers game
The issue of employment numbers of women in technology is not new. Traditionally, the number of women in tech-related positions has been appallingly low. The Atlantic cited in 2013 that while 57 percent of occupations in the workforce were held by women, they comprised only 25 percent of the tech sector and “computing-occupations”. Leadership numbers came in slightly lower with a mere 20% of women holding a chief information officer (CIO) position amongst the Fortune 250 companies. In a time when technology is being built to influence and improve the lives of everyone, the low number of women in contributory roles has been worrisome.
Women are needed in tech to bring a fresh and different perspective to the work that needs to be accomplished over the next few decades. When asked about the downside of limited diversity in the tech fields, Emily Long, Director of Communications and Development for The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project) stated, “What I see as the biggest downside to the tech/media field – or any field, for that matter – dominated by one demographic is the lack of diversity that emerges in the storytelling and content.” In an era where storytelling provides context to people using our software and content being king, diversity is needed now more than at any time before.
Gender diversity and the next generations
This issue of gender diversity in the workplace is slowly beginning to change. The last two years have seen more women entering tech/media related fields, thanks to a heightened awareness of the diversity issues in the media and amongst many of the top conferences. Inclusion programs like Girls Who Code, Girl Develop It, and others have begun to break down diversity lines making entry to these fields much more “user friendly”, and the industry is benefiting from it.
Of particular interest to me is the greater number of women in leadership positions, and how that has influenced project team communication, business development, organizational culture and overall product creativity.
The new perspectives and advantages brought by women to the tech sector are numerous. For instance, according to World Bank figures, women make up over 50% of the total population of the U.S. and the United Kingdom–a huge number that can be directly influenced by more inclusive and diversely developed software. Anna Van Slee, Director of Product Development at Marbles: The Brain Store’s Workshop sees a variety of changes thanks to a more diverse workforce and leadership. “Of particular interest to me is the greater number of women in leadership positions, and how that has influenced project team communication, business development, organizational culture and overall product creativity.”
Working for a brighter future
With employment numbers on the rise, the future is looking brighter. Larger companies have also started to actively recruit for the next generation of technologists–some focusing directly on the female population of the future.
As global borders continue to shrink thanks to more robust methods of communication and technology, we need to continue shrinking our internal borders as well. Diversity, after all, is one aspect of the future of technology. The fresh perspectives women bring to the tech and media sectors will be needed as we meet the needs of the ever changing, technologically adept global user of tomorrow.