In the US, according to the Tech Jury, only 24.61% of computing jobs were held by women in 2018. This number has been on a steady decline for years. While the global average in 2018 revealed that only 20% of all jobs in technology were held by women. 74% of girls express a desire for a career in STEM fields. However, only 18% of Computer Science bachelors at major universities in 2016 were women. In a survey conducted by Girls Who Code in Canada, 82% of respondents said they picture a man when they think of a computer scientist. Moreover, the situation for female visible minorities is far. In 2013, women of black, Hispanic, and Native American descent made up 18% of the college-aged population, yet they only earned 6% of computing degrees and 3% of engineering degrees.
These statistics are especially concerning because STEM-related jobs – particularly those in software engineering and computer science – are some of the fastest and growing and highest paying in both Inter-American and global economies. We cannot leave behind the innovations, contributions and ideas of half the population or keep girls out of the economic opportunity represented by the tech sector – where jobs pay on average over $100,000 a year – due to gender stereotypes. Moreover, the underrepresentation of women in tech is a huge liability for the industry. Diverse companies are more likely to report growth, perform better, and have an increased competitive edge, according to numerous compilations.
Moreover, the success of women in technological leadership is not very high either. In 2017, 5% of startup founders were women and 25% of all leadership positions in technology were held by women in 2015. In contrast, In 2018, more than half of the US workforce was composed of women. What’s worse is that women are 3.5 times more likely to be 35+ and still in a junior tech position. This explains why In 2018, there were only 24 women CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. That’s 4.8% of all senior leadership positions.
What can be done? The IIN-OAS needs to develop policies that require all member States to implement free and flexible programs that teach computer science skills (including coding, data analysis, and cybersecurity fundamentals) to girls, even those who lack internet and technological facilities. Additionally, these programs should also include mentors who can help them gain access and provide them with connections to the work industry, and also facilitate conversations and presentations from successful women in tech. All of these steps are particularly important because according to Aveda, the top five reasons why women are underrepresented in technology, according to 500 interviewed participants worldwide are:
- Lack of mentors (48% of responses)
- Lack of female role models in the same field (42% of responses).
- Gender bias and derogatory behavior in the workplace (39% of responses)
- Unequal growth opportunities with male coworkers (36% of responses).
- The lesser wage for the same position (35% of responses).
The above data proves something else, too: the IIN-OAS also has to develop several crucial policies that make it mandatory for member States to ban lesser wages for the same position men and women have in ALL fields, and impose strict penalties on violators.
Fortunately, change through such programs has already begun to appear. Programs such as Girls Who Code and Canada Learning Code provide skills, mentorship, and inspiration to girls and minorities in tech. More than 60% of Gen Z females (who are 22 years old or younger as of 2020) started coding between the age of 16 – 21, while 25% of all were already coding before they were 15. This is a direct result of the rising number of opportunities for education. Today in several Inter-American states of the OAS, coding is a part of some schools’ curricula, and there are all sorts of coding schools and summer coding programs. Some programs even work with children as young as 5.
Together, with IIN-OAS, member states, and non-profit organizations that work to equip and inspire girls to enter tech can work towards helping girls from every walk of life to become the next generation of empowered tech leaders.