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Empowering Women to Find a Way Back into the Technology Pipeline
For the past year, I’ve served as a Chapter Leader for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that teaches women web and software development skills called Girl Develop It (GDI). Since 2010, GDI has provided an open learning environment for adult women, leading many women to begin new careers as programmers, designers, project managers and educators. In fact, the organization has officially reached 100,000 members across the United States, helping them land new jobs or further grow in their current job.
This is just a snapshot of the push to empower women to pursue careers in technology.
Only 26% of computing jobs are held by women and this number has decreased in the past few years. When it comes to this dramatic underrepresentation of women in technology fields, there are factors that are often overlooked. While many organizations focus on introducing young girls to STEM careers, it’s also extremely important to address the women who missed that initial entry into the pipeline.
We hear all the time: “I want to code, but I don’t know where to start.”
Some women have worked in other fields for decades, and want to make a career change out of necessity or interest. Others are entrepreneurs and professionals who want to develop technology skills to support their businesses or communicate better with tech colleagues and consultants.
One of the biggest challenges for women to jumpstart their tech education is time and cost. University programs and some formal boot camps can reach thousands of dollars and require a lengthy time commitment. This is a major obstacle for women who have other financial, time and family obligations. This is where I’ve seen GDI’s low-cost, low-commitment class model make a big difference. Students can take part in beginner classes without upending their lives.
But helping women enter the field is only the beginning. Keeping them there is equally important. Women are twice as likely as men to leave the industry, which is why organizational support becomes essential to helping women achieve their goals and overcome challenges. EPAM’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is a great example of this work in action. Its members rely on each other to talk through conflicts, build their confidence and work skills, and promote an equitable work environment.
As WLI members discussed during our International Women’s Day roundtable, this challenge must be supported widely. As the need for talent increases, organizational policies and the support of colleagues also play a critical role in making the industry one that women want to belong to for many years to come. Together, we can change the narrative of women working and leading in technology.