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The Future Leaders of the Tech Industry: Closing the Gender Gap


Introduction

Key Terms

The majority of this project will be centered around robotics, so there are a few key terms that I learned and may be important to know while exploring the conference

Drive Roles People who operate the robot in competition
Departments The robotics team operates in different departments. Some are concerned with outreach, engineering, software, and every other aspect of what the team needs. Each department has a department head.
STEM Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Gender Gap Refers to the fact that there are significantly less women than men participating in STEM fields

Disclaimer!

This conference speaks about the tech industry in terms of the binary. Because openly non-binary people are such a minority in the tech industry, I don’t feel as if it would be within the scope of my conference to include these problems as well. Of course, non-binary people face extreme discrimination in school and the workplace and these issues should be discussed.

The Problem: Statistics Demonstrate the Lack of Girls in the Tech Industry

Opinion: Why Women Need To Be Included in Technology

Aside from basic equality, gender equality would benefit the entire tech industry. Women bring new diverse opinions to the industry. Especially in our growing technological world, the value of a diversity of opinions is becoming more and more important. The exclusion of women in technology, the fastest growing industry of the time, can be a danger to the growth of the tech industry. Sexism and prejudice will hold this industry back from truly finding the best tech talent.

Interview: Hannah Fisher on Girls in Technology

Hannah Fisher, a Junior at Catlin Gabel School, has been a part of the Catlin Gabel Robotics Team and has been taking computer science for all three years of high school so far. As a main organizer of a Robotics tournament called “Girls Generation”, Hannah has taken great strides in order to decrease the gender gap in STEM fields. In this interview, she addresses not only the effect of this program, but her own experience during her time involved in technology in high school.

After listening to Hannah’s interview, the story behind the Catlin Gabel Robotics Team because much clearer. Though there are many girls and they are very accepted in the team, the team is lacking in female leadership. Because of this, Hannah participates in “Girls Generation”, which is explained in greater depth in the video. Hannah’s passion for not only technology, but solving the gender inequality problem, is clear!

Interview: Monica Enand on Girls in Technology

Monica Enand is the CEO and Founder of Zapproved, a software company designed for lawyers. After 10 years, Zapproved is ranked as Deloitte’s “Fastest Growing Company” and has one numerous awards in it’s field as a market leading legal product. In this interview, Enand discusses the problems with the gender gap in the workforce and her own experience in school.

Monica represents a role model for young girls looking to pursue tech. After fighting through years of being the only woman, or men underestimating her merit, she has finally proven that women can be just as competent as men in tech. The most striking moment of her interview for me, was when she described her life in college in a rigorous computer engineering program.

The Problem and Solutions: The Scholarly Opinion

“Do Women in Science and Technology Need the Women’s Movement?” by Carole Zonis Yee

In her article, Carole Zonis Yee, details the problems a school can face when attempting to close the gender gap in technology. As a professor at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Yee describes the issues she sees first hand as the school attempts to close the gender gap of technology. Women in technology lack the basic support that women of other majors receive, as they feel as if they are not a part of the women’s movement. She describes how women in technology are, “embarrassed to have anything to do with something called a Women’s Center,” (Yee 126). She argues that “[colleges] need courses on the history, ideology, and issues of feminism to inform women entering highly competitive, male-dominated fields,” (Yee 127).

“Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces” by The National Center for Women & Information Technology

This report, by the National Center for Women in Technology, extensively details how men can be advocates for their female colleagues in the tech industry. Though the report gives extensive detail on how men can use their privilege to advocate for a more inclusive workplace. The report is mainly written for the man who wants to increase diversity in his workplace, and therefore gives specific examples of how a man can become an advocate, based on their interviews with men in technology. An example of these suggestions is to, “Rotate assignments or otherwise ensure that male employees work with female managers, leaders, or mentors,” (NCWIT 14).

“How to Close the Gender Gap in Tech” by The Editors

This Bloomberg article addresses how to close the gender gap in the workforce and at the college level. Using Harvey Mudd College as an example, the article gives a brief overview of how this institution is attempting to close their gender gap in technology. Additionally, the article analyzes the company Accenture, which aims to achieve a 50% female workforce by 2025. The article does not delve into specifics of closing the gender gap, but does give an overview of these institution’s efforts. Written by the editors of Bloomberg, the article is clearly credible, with links to their sources. After reading about the editors, it does not seem that they would be biased as all editors have a background in technology, rather than gender studies.

Case Study: The Catlin Gabel School Robotics Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea that sparked my interest for this project was my school’s robotics team. Though I am not a member of it, all Catlin Gabel students are aware of the amount of girls that participate in robotics. In fact, the students in robotics are very close to each other, leading me to believe there is not much gender discrimination. To uncover the truth, I interviewed some students from the robotics team.

Bailey (She/Her)

“Usually I feel like [the girls] have similar opportunities [as the boys]. The only thing I can think of is that sometimes, when the guys are at a manager position, they tend to patronize us. At Catlin [Gabel School], gender balance is pretty equal, but other schools are much worse. We once mentored a school that had 3 girls on their team, out of about 20”

Culla (She/Her)

“I feel supported as a woman. There haven’t been many times when I’ve felt alienated because of my gender, but its not perfect. Part of it is just the culture of engineering environments. But I think change has to come from the students, because we are the future of the technology workforces. Although we have a similar amount of female to male, a lot of other teams are male dominated.”

Hammad (He/Him)

“Women are underrepresented in technology. I mean, women are underrepresented in terms of their merit, maybe not on our team but maybe in other teams. Women’s merit is not totally acknowledged. They’re pushed under the rug a lot.  We try to provide the best experience for everyone by respecting everyone. Our system is structured around merit. There is a female in every big part of the team. In every department there is a female. As a man, I can give women the same respect that I give to everyone. The best way to show respect is to “put everyone to work”. When I am in a leadership position, I try to give everyone a good amount of work, especially in the really STEM centered departments.”

Noor (She/Her)

“Every time I talk to other team, you always see girls in lower roles than the guys. I once made friends with some girls from another team. When their robot wasn’t working, they said “the guys are really mad so we are going to stay out of their way”. They shouldn’t think about how they will upset the guys on the team. They should be thinking about how they can use their talent and skills. You generally don’t see girls on pit crew/drive roles (people who operate the robot in competition).”

Tyler (He/Him)

“Our team is 40% female, which isn’t perfect, but is definitely improving. The majority of leaders in robotics are female. But for other teams, it’s wildly different. I’ve seen teams that don’t have any girls, and most have 10-20%. It’s improving, but its not equal. But we notice this and we try to do outreach to get more girls into STEM, like Girls Generation. Other teams try to showcase girls’ work as well and to empower them to be leaders. I think that theres a lot we can do to “make it loud”, make STEM loud and inviting to ALL genders. Personally, I have the power to run outreach events and start new events. There’s a lot of teams where there are a lot of males and so girls don’t want to join and you get this vicious cycle. So all you need is a good amount of girls on the team to start. Its bad, but its improving. Not equal, but you can tell that it’s getting there”

Reflection: What Did My Interviews Tell Me?

After listening to what my peers had to say in the interviews, I realized that while my school is really progressive in the way we have approached technology, there is always room for improvement. As Culla said, “[p]art of it is just the culture of engineering environments,” and until the entire culture is changed, there will still be room for improvement. However, the responses are basically what I expected. I loved hearing that most of the girls don’t see their gender as a disadvantage on our robotics team!

The girls on the robotics team have really inspired me throughout my project with their intelligence, kindness, and want for change for their fellow girls in technology. Every single person that I asked to interview immediately said yes, and answered my questions with thoughtfulness. More than anything through the interviews, I understood the deep want for change that so many people of all genders in technology want.

Recommendations

After reviewing all the materials (interviews, observations, articles), I compiled a list of concrete actions that can be taken to encourage women into technology and who can implement these actions.  See if your school can try some of these!

How Can We Encourage Women in Technology?

Who Can Implement This?

Treat women based on their merit and use their skills. Teachers
Rather than patronizing women, allow them to explain concepts to more inexperienced students Classmates, Teachers
Emphasize female role models in the classroom Administration, Teachers
Listen to women’s ideas and encourage speaking up by calling on girls who raise their hands and adding participation to evaluation Teachers, Classmates
Make a year of computer science a required course for all high school students Administration
Attempt to close the gender gap by specifically recruiting women into technology programs in an “affirmative action” type program Teachers, Administration
Allow girls to explore the STEM industry at a young age Parents, Teachers
Have female teachers in technology-related subjects Administration
Broaden the scope of what technology means to make it interdisciplinary Teachers, Administration
Fight injustice when you see it Classmates, Teachers

Do You See/Experience Gender Discrimination in Tech?

Padlet: Discuss the Project!

 

Made with Padlet

 

Citations

Yee, Carole Zonis. “Do Women in Science and Technology Need the Women’s Movement?” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, 1977, pp. 125–128. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3346357.

Ashcraft, Catherine, et al. “Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces.” National Center for Women & Information Technology, 2013.

Ildeniz, Aysegul, et al. “MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing.” Intel Corporation, 2014.

The Editiors. “How to Close the Gender Gap in Tech.” Bloomberg, 6 Sept. 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-09-06/how-to-close-the-gender-gap-in-tech.

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COMMENTS: 5
  1. April 28, 2018 by Sara.Hewitt

    Hi, Marisa! I love your page. As a girl who has grown up in Silicon Valley, a technology/innovation hub, I constantly notice this exclusion of women in tech, and I am so glad you chose to write about this issue.

    • April 30, 2018 by marisa

      Thank you!

  2. April 29, 2018 by Harry Shi

    Recently I read an interesting report published in the Atlantic, which suggested that there are only three countries where boys are significantly less likely to work on math problems than girls are: Jordan, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. Moreover, in Algeria, 41% of colleges graduate in STEM are female. Why do nations that traditionally have less gender equality have more female STEM students?

    Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/03/there-are-only-3-countries-where-girls-feel-more-comfortable-with-math-than-boys/284272/

    • April 30, 2018 by Banah.Khamis

      Hey Harry! You ask a highly articulate question. I would assume that due to the prominent gender equality in such places, women feel the need to work harder than other women around the world would. Of course, that is a generalization; but I would assume so. If STEM was the only way for a girl to earn a high ranking job, then girls will probably excel.

      • April 30, 2018 by Marisa.Natarajan

        Interesting! I didn’t know this so thank you for teaching us!

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