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Women in Tech – Equity and Equality

In the 1940s, Alan Turing famously put the basis of the first modern computer – this may not be news to you. What you may have not heard is that he couldn’t have done it without Ada Lovelace’s notes, which she had jotted years before as she was working on a project for the first “analytical engine.” Years later, in 1947, another woman – Grace Hopper – would become the first person to detect the first ever computer bug. In the decades that followed, other women would prove crucial to the computer science and technology fields, among them Annie Easley at NASA, Mary Wilkes with one of the earliest systems for personal computers, and Radia Perlman, nicknamed “the mother of the internet.”

Fast-forward to today, women continue to invent, influence and develop the world of technology as we know it. Our world is made larger by women like Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code; Danah Boyd, founder and president of Data & Society, a research institute to address the ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies; and Dr. Fei-Fei Li, co-director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute and co-founder of AI4ALL, a nonprofit aimed at improving diversity in the field of AI. 

While these women giants of the tech world make their contributions, there are a lot of lesser-known female programmers and tech experts whose work is indispensable to organizations of all sizes. Unfortunately though, the tech industry still has a marked gender gap when it comes to relying on women for their talents. As the percentage of employed women across all job sectors in the US has grown to 47%, the five largest tech companies on the planet (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) only have a workforce of about 34.4% women. Women continue to be highly underrepresented in software engineering (14% of total workforce) and computer science-related jobs (25% of total workforce) and the percentage growth of female software engineer hires has only increased 2% over the last 20 years. The numbers are worrying, and even more so when one zooms in on the employment numbers of women in underrepresented groups. 

Fortunately, there are ways to make things better, and it all starts with daily behaviors, as well as employment and HR practices:

  • Give women the credit they deserve. That may mean recognition for a hard-earned education and set of experiences, as well as calling out the ideas and quality work a woman contributes to a project. 
  • Unconscious bias training in companies. Underlying attitudes and stereotypes people associate with a person or groups of people are the biggest threat to company diversity and inclusion. Training in counter-stereotyping and perspective-taking can increase empathy and ensure qualified and capable women enter healthy and fitting workplaces.
  • Hiring based on potential, not only background. Because women are currently overlooked for entry level positions in the tech world, it’s more difficult for them to gain applicable experience. This puts them at a disadvantage in the hiring process, since they weren’t able to gain the knowledge and network they needed. Trusting that women can learn and get the job done levels the playing field and allows them to work in positions they deserve.   

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