Ten Reasons Why It’s a Great Time for Women in STEM

 Grace Hopper was one of the first computer scientists. Born in 1906, she developed the first compiler, the concept of machine independent programming language, was a US Navy Rear admiral, and left a legacy for women in STEM fields. In 1947, she found a moth in the tubes of a UNIVAC computer, and coined the term “bug.”

Last week was the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Minneapolis, where thousands gathered to advance the influence of women in technology. With renewed energy, I’d like to share some thoughts with Ten reasons why it’s great to be a woman in the tech industry:

1. I can help change the world

Technology shapes our world, and the next decade will see a wave of innovation that will further advance the positive role technology plays in our lives.  Here’s a chance to shape that future.

Human beings have the unique ability to shape the world we live in. Our innovations have given us the power to transform our environment, extend our life span, create vast, interconnected societies, and even explore the stars. The technologies that have made this possible, from the simplest wooden plow to the most advanced personal computer, have also helped bring about fundamental economic and social change. Just as the steam engine, the railroad, and the telephone created dramatic shifts in the way people lived, the digital information technology developed in the past few decades has transformed our world at a pace that eclipses all innovations before it.  Being part of the tech industry is a chance to help create and shape our futures.

2. Great paying jobs

DARPA said, “The downward trend in college graduates with STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] majors is particularly pronounced in Computer Science (CS). While computers and internet connectivity become daily fixtures in the lives of Americans, we are steadily losing the engineering talent to project these systems.”

Women in tech jobs earn 33 more than women in non-tech jobs! Tech jobs offer great starting pay and you can choose from various positions, disciplines and job titles based on your passions and interests -- not just developer and QA.

3. Extremely rewarding work that has an impact:

Working in the technology field gives a great sense of satisfaction. When people around the world use the products you have contributed to, and are benefited by them, it’s very rewarding. For example, a communication tool like Skype connects people globally and helps bring them together.  There are many stories of how the product was used to make a call to a loved one during an emergency when all other modes of communication had failed. It’s a great feeling to have been part of the team that made it happen.

Technology has helped the fields of education, medicine, poverty, disaster relief, social service, communication, democracy, transportation, and many others. Working with technology is my way of giving back to the world!

4. Improve diversity – increase the innovation and creative power of the team:

Diversity is the key to innovation and creativity and being a woman on the team, I have found many times that my different perspective and questions have caused the team to change directions on design decisions to improve our products.  As the Lorax has taught us, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

5. Break the cultural stereotypes:

Everyone was inspired this year with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. We’ve learned that stereotypes aren’t always accurate.

I have the privilege to wake up every day with a golden opportunity to stand tall and change the perception of women – as technical, as impactful, as visionary – and as powerful members of the tech industry. As our numbers increase, we can collectively change the perceptions.

6. Be a role model to other women who want to join the industry:

In the past, there has been a dearth of female role models in the tech industry, but I appreciate the opportunity to show that it can be done. I think it’s great to be a woman in technology with the opportunity to help young girls and other women join the industry by coaching and mentoring them. It made a difference for me to see other women succeeding in an aspirational position – and I can give back by offering my help to others. For me, having access to someone to mentor and advise was immeasurable – and a powerful reinforcement for every woman’s inner belief that “I can aspire to greatness.” This leads to an even greater value: the benefit of having great mentors available in each career stage has a great impact on not only a woman’s career, but her life as well.

7. Excellent confidence booster:

In 1920, Rose Will Monroe was born in Pulaski County, Kentucky. During World War II, she worked as a riveter at Willow Run Aircraft in Michigan. Rosie the Riveter was a galvanizing force for women in the workforce with her trademark “Yes! We Can” in the 1940s. For me, my stable technology job and great pay gives me this same heightened sense of independence. I feel like I can take care of my needs and those of my family. It helps me boost my confidence, and that helps across all aspects of my life.

8. Improve customer empathy:

A 2003 article in Neuroreport found that when women were asked to identify other people’s emotions, their brain activity indicated they were truly feeling the emotions they saw. Men, by contrast, showed activity in brain regions associated with rational analysis, indicating they were just identifying the emotions and considering whether they’d seen them before—a more objective position.

While everyone is different, I feel that I can take advantage of my innate skills to empathize with others, to put myself in the mind of our customers to build customer relations and to help understand their perspective to improve business by contributing toward building products that better align with what customers need.

9. Improve communication and collaboration between teams:

In his book "Fighting for Life," Walter Ong points out that men use "agonistic" or warlike, oppositional formats to do almost anything; thus discussion becomes debate, and conversation a competitive sport. In contrast, women see conversation as a ritual means of establishing rapport. If Jane tells a problem and June says she has a similar one, they walk away feeling closer to each other.

As a woman in technology, I can use my innate skills of communication to bridge communication gaps between teams and improve productivity. Susan Cain’s book "Quiet – The Power of Introverts” discusses many of the different tendencies – not necessarily gender-based, but the value of all types of communication.

10. Contribute towards making the environment fun to work:

As women we all seek a social connection with our colleagues and coworkers. This brings about a great opportunity to make the work environment more social and fun for everyone.

A Call to action:

The technology industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.  The United States Department of Labor estimates that by 2018 there will be more than 1.4 million total new computing-related job openings when considering growth and replacement needs. Technology job opportunities are predicted to grow at a faster rate than all other jobs in the professional sector, or up to 22 percent over the next decade.

The coming decades offer grand challenges and exciting opportunities for the technology industry. Technological innovation will play a crucial role in almost every facet of society and the global economy. Women and other groups currently underrepresented in technical positions will increasingly influence technological purchases and consumption. Companies that capitalize on diverse perspectives to improve technological innovation and invention will be well-poised to benefit from the perspectives of a diverse range of talent, to appeal to diverse markets, and ultimately to become and remain leaders in the technology industry.

There has never been a better time for more women to join the technology industry – aided by the ongoing commitment and support from the government and big companies in making sure that we get the science and technology skills needed to fill the jobs of the future.  As such, highly-qualified women are well-positioned to move into these open jobs.

The time is right to bring forth a new generation of creative, innovative, inspired, and determined women who ask as they enter the workforce, "How can we change the world?" Across all facets of society, there is an opportunity to band together in unprecedented ways to leverage technology for good – and it’s a great time for women in technology to take ownership of that responsibility and focus our talents and contributions on creation and innovation.  

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result-Gandhi


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