Throughout my career in software engineering, I have been fortunate enough to experience a diverse range of work environments. I've worked for small companies and in big tech across multiple industries. One of the challenges that has stood out for me through all my years in tech is that despite all the advancements made towards equity in today's society, men are still the overwhelming majority in software engineering.
According to Girls Who Code, there has been a steady decline in women choosing computer science (CS) as a career since the 90s. Although the younger generations are much more aware of gender equity and are actually pushing for a change, we have yet to see an uptick in the trend here. And although the statistics are mainly focused on the percentage of women in CS studies, similar conclusions can also be drawn from the workplace. Historically, software engineering has been a male-dominated field due to a variety of factors.
One reason is the cultural perception that computer science and engineering are "masculine" fields, leading to fewer girls being encouraged to pursue STEM subjects in school. Additionally, the lack of female role models and mentors in the field can discourage women from pursuing a career in software engineering. Gender bias and discrimination in hiring and promotion practices have also played a role in limiting the number of women in the industry. These historical barriers have created a self-perpetuating cycle, where a lack of representation of women in the field discourages more women from entering and advancing in the industry.
Being the father of three amazing girls, equity is near and dear to my heart. My wife and I have always emphasized raising leaders, and we encourage our girls to try everything at least once before deciding it's not for them. I want my girls to feel supported to be whoever they want and not conform to some made-up standard imposed by society. But I also want them to feel they have the same opportunities as anyone else, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. So what can we, as tech workers, do to enable women to choose software engineering as a profession and ensure that they can build a rewarding career in an environment that is both mentally stimulating but also a safe space where everyone gets treated fairly and have the same possibilities to make an impact as anyone else?
Here are some ideas:
- Break down gender stereotypes: Encourage girls to explore STEM fields and boys to pursue interests traditionally associated with girls. Promote diverse role models in media and entertainment.
- Provide mentorship and support: Women in tech often face unique challenges, from lack of representation in leadership to gender bias and harassment. Companies should provide mentorship and resources to help women advance in their careers.
- Prioritize diversity in hiring: Seek out and hire diverse candidates and ensure hiring practices are free from bias and discrimination.
- Address the gender wage gap: Conduct regular pay equity audits and take steps to close the gap.
In conclusion, as tech workers and leaders, it is our responsibility to create an inclusive environment that is accessible to everyone. It's time to step up and create a more diverse and equitable field. As a father of three daughters, I want them to grow up in a world where their potential is limitless and their opportunities are equitable to those of their male peers. Let's create a future where everyone has the opportunity to excel and make a positive impact on the world. Remember, we cannot afford to leave half of our population behind. We must work together to create a better world for ourselves and future generations.