FIRST THOUGHT: Bridging the Gender Gap in Technology
When I first saw kids playing Oregon Trail on their clunky PCs, hoping not to croak from dysentery, I had no idea just how much the computer would be a part of all of our lives. We now use them for everything, from reading Buzzfeed listicles to playing with shelter animals. Oh yeah, and doing important stuff at work like managing databases and writing emails.
One of the most exhilarating things about living among all this technology is that we can share our stories and experiences. That’s why we started On The Dot, because we can learn from other women doing amazing things, whether they’re in Japan or Jamaica. The world is our oyster.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 7.2 Percent
Long gone are the days when women fanned themselves in parlors and fainted on couches. It’s commonplace for women to work, but equality in all career paths is lagging. While women make up nearly half the workforce in the United States, progress still needs to be made in terms of getting more women involved in fields like the computer sciences, physical sciences and engineering.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 7.2 percent of mechanical engineers in the United States are women. Mechanical engineers can design some pretty cool stuff, like prosthetic hands and aerospace vehicles, so why don’t more women want to get involved in the industry? My theory is that the more we talk to girls about STEM—that’s science, technology, engineering and math—the more likely it is those girls will grow up to be women who want to pursue a STEM career path.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani has accomplished much in her life. The daughter of refugees, she began her career as a lawyer and activist, and previously worked as New York City’s deputy public advocate. Recently, Fortune named her one of its 40 Under 40.
She also was the first Indian-American woman to run for U.S. Congress. During that race, she visited many schools and was stunned to witness a staggering gender gap in computer classes. While she lost the race, she found a new direction.
In 2012, Saujani founded an organization called Girls Who Code, which has seen big backing from the likes of Google and Twitter. Girls Who Code started with only 20 participants in New York City. By the end of 2016, Girls Who Code will reach more than 40,000 girls across all states.
The organization offers immersion programs for girls to learn—you guessed it—how to code. The mission of the organization is to inspire, educate and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Girls learn the fundamentals of computer science, from robotics to how to build a web page to how to develop mobile apps, and they receive mentoring from women engineers at companies like Facebook and Goldman Sachs. The stats are pretty impressive. Ninety percent of girls who participate in one of these programs go on to major or minor in computer science or a related field, and 92 percent go on to teach someone else how to code.
In one of my favorite TED talks, Saujani says we are raising boys to be brave and girls to be perfect. If we don’t teach girls to take risks rather than worrying about perfection, we will miss out on tons of future innovations. Right on, sister!
Based on this notion, Saujani recently published a book called Women Who Don’t Wait in Line. She advocates for women to step into leadership roles by encouraging one another. If women lift each other up to speak about their ideas—without the fear of failure—they can and will do great things.
QUITE THE QUOTE
Another woman who definitely doesn’t wait in line is first lady Michelle Obama. She said:
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to-do list.”
That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.
To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.