In the Minority: Women in Programming
In college, I was one of a handful of females in a 100+ class of Information Systems students. In my master's program in the same field, I was the sole female in a sea of 42 white males. With the fast-paced growth of today's technology, the number of women working in STEM fields is slowly increasing. Last 2017, the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) gave a report regarding the women in STEM fields. The key findings of their report are the following;
- Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of the college-educated workers but makeup only 25 percent of college-educated STEM workers.
- Women with STEM jobs earned 35 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs — even higher than the 30 percent STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs. Women with STEM jobs also earned 40 percent more than men with non-STEM jobs.
- While nearly as many women hold undergraduate degrees as men overall, they make up only about 30 percent of all STEM degree holders. Women make up a disproportionately low share of degree holders in all STEM fields, particularly engineering.
- Women with STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare.
There are so many articles out there trying to explain why there aren't more women in code, what we should be doing about it, and how to change the numbers. There are so many of them, even whole organizations in place to address these questions.
For me, I have found the root of the issue to be a matter of confidence, or a lack thereof. (There's a term for feeling like you don't belong in the field you're in–impostor syndrome, anyone? Both hands raised right here!) I hope that in sharing just a little bit of my own experience, someone reading this who is anxious about entering the field might take courage and feel confident about joining the coding world.
The women in tech may be too little compared to men, but their number gradually increases through the years. Rachel Bowley, a Data Scientist, posted an article on LinkedIn's Official Blog, regarding the progress of women entering STEM fields. She stated;
"In the last four decades, women are making progress in these roles, as well as the public safety and construction industries, indicating a strong trend of women being better represented amongst traditionally male-dominated roles and industries." She also added, "when we looked at the movement of women in the workforce over the last 40 years, we found the top roles are STEM-based roles. Also notably, female architects have made significant progress over the 40 year period, going from under 25% women, to now being close to 50%."
Women are gradually beating the status quo in the tech industry. But there are moments when my minority-ness gets the better of me. In my undergraduate and graduate programs, I was fiendishly motivated by a need to prove that I belonged in the program based on merit and not as a part of some statistical requirement. I have mixed feelings about companies' minority-promoting programs because, in some ways, they validate my insecurity. I feel my uncertainties bubble up, too, when water cooler conversations remind me that my coworkers' interests seem to blend well with each other, but they are so different from my own.
And while I could try to change my interests to blend in, or quietly leave the field, I stay because I love what I do. I stay because I'm gaining confidence that it's great that my interests are different, and I want to be part of the critical mass of diverse contributors that changes the way technology impacts our lives. While stereotypes exist, this isn't a field for one kind of person, and the more each of us embraces that, the stronger this field will be. Not because we've achieved some perfectly balanced demographic, but because we're a community who will have figured out how to use those differences to create.
This year, CompTIA, the world's leading technology association, and its Advancing Women in Technology Community has launched AWITTechGuide.com, an online source created for women and girls seeking career information in technology. Its advocacy is to help girls and women join the global tech workforce and grow in their careers as employees and entrepreneurs.
In the press release of CompTIA, it claimed that an estimate of 2.36 million women works in the US technical and non-technical job sector. However, it represents only 34 percent of nearly 7 million workers of the total workforce. Still, they look at the statistics optimistically. They believe that there's hope for women to achieve massive success in the tech industry if more companies and business establishments would provide a more welcoming environment to address industry's diversity and skills gap challenges.
And creation is the heart of development, and what keeps me loving it every day. When I code, those insecurities fall by the wayside, and the adventure of problem-solving holds my attention. And when you're debugging, diversity is the very thing you want, because obviously, the way I'm approaching it isn't working, so isn't it great to be surrounded by people who see the problem differently? Coding is for the creative and the algorithmic. For the planner and the adventurer. For the old and the young. For the hesitant and the daring.
Innovation is the byproduct of solving problems in new, creative ways, and creativity happens when we're able to approach a situation with new eyes. Let's stop trying to fit in and embrace that we each perceive the world differently. Let's let our unique abilities collide and see what happens. I know it's hard to feel different and confident sometimes but you're not alone, we're here to help you as you continue your journey to becoming a software engineer. I hope you'll join us!
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