KID REPORTERS’ NOTEBOOK

Wanted: More Women in Tech Careers

Poppy Gaye, founder of accelerateHER, with Manat Kaur.
Poppy Gaye, founder of accelerateHER, with Manat Kaur.

Manat with Poppy Gaye, who started accelerateHER

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 26 percent of professional computing jobs in 2016 were held by women. An organization called accelerateHER is working to address the gender gap across all areas of the tech field.

On June 14, accelerateHER held its second annual conference in London, England. More than 200 people attended. The conference focused on ways to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers, help women assume leadership roles at tech companies, and assist companies in creating change in the workplace.

“We know how hard it is for women” to succeed in technology careers, said Poppy Gaye, Founder of accelerateHER. “We are trying to move the needle.”

This year’s speakers included Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder and CEO of the Virgin Group. They discussed ways to increase the number of women working at technology companies, especially in senior management positions.

I was invited to talk about how to encourage girls to pursue STEM-related careers. “If you want to fix diversity in tech,” I told the group, “you need to start early.” Providing positive female role models for young girls is a good way to do that.

 

 

Marissa Mayer, Former CEO of Yahoo!, speaking at a fireside chat.

Marissa Mayer, former Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo, a Web services provider, talks about women’s issues in the workplace at a fireside chat.

IMPROVED DECISION-MAKING

According to McKinsey’s Women Matter study, having more than three women in top executive positions at an organization leads to a healthier company and improved decision-making. “It is not just nice to have, it’s good business,” said Sarah Wood, CEO of Unruly, a video advertising company.

At Unruly, 40 percent of the board members are women. But relatively few women have top management roles at U.S. tech companies.

Branson said that he supports legal measures to further the promotion of women in the tech industry. He cited successful regulations in Norway, where at least 40 percent of board members must be women. “Left to themselves,” Branson observed, “Men won’t get there.”

 

“WHAT CAN YOU DO?”

During breaks at the conference, people were encouraged to write on a pledge wall entitled, What can you do to accelerateHER?

“Teach young girls to have their own identity,” “Involve men in the conversation,” and “Train 20,000 women coders by 2020,” were among the promises that filled the wall.

Many attendees agreed that girls need to be empowered to defy stereotypes. “Now, what we are doing is correcting” the unconscious promotion of fixed gender roles, said Esther Wojcicki, Founder of the Media Arts Center at Palo Alto High School in California.

Wojcicki know what she’s talking about. She has raised three accomplished daughters: Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube; Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe; and Janet Wojcicki, an associate professor of pediatrics at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine.

Still, much work needs to be done to achieve gender equality in the tech field. Which solutions do you think would be the most effective?

 

Photos courtesy of the author