Women Working to Expand in Tech Industry
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor released a list of the 20 leading occupations of employed women. None of them was in the technical field. That same year, only 3% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
From coders to venture capitalists, women remain a small minority in most tech-related businesses. In order to combat this trend, new groups have formed to help women find mentors and build their confidence in the technology field. This very issue was a recurring theme at last week's South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. There were many women-only parties and panels featuring titles such as "Sausagefest: Getting More Women Into New Media & Tech."
Tamara Hudgins is the executive director of Girl Start, a nonprofit based in Austin. The organization provides science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming for girls outside of the classroom. "Less than 12 percent of STEM jobs in America are filled by women. So for us, making sure that more girls feel that they have access to STEM jobs is critical," she said. "Having more women in the field is important for innovation."
Women at SXSW also talked about the desire to be respected in the tech workplace, not just liked. "How we have been conditioned to be maybe works fine for being the popular girl in school. But at a certain point in our professional life, being the nice one does not get us to the level of respect or responsibility that we want," said Tara Sophia Mohr, a San Francisco-based life and leadership coach for women. "We have to be more authoritative and more assertive and be OK with not being liked by everyone," she added.
As conferences like SXSW bring together thought leaders from all over the world, women everywhere hope that these discussions can help close the gender gap in tech fields.