With recent headlines focusing on tech hiring sprees and lack of representation of minority populations, studies from around the globe are telling a similar story—women are under-represented in the tech field. The reasons for this vary, but it’s known that for many, the decision to pursue a tech career path goes back to early school days.
Girls Who Code reports that about 74% of young girls express interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and computer science. And yet, by the time they make decisions about what to study and where to start their careers, something happens.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women hold only 18% of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26% of computing jobs. The percentage of women working in computer science-related professions has declined since the 1990s, dropping from 35% to 26% between 1990 and 2013. The United Nations shares that in technical fields like artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals is a women.
To combat these numbers and to achieve gender equality, a growing movement has encouraged girls and women to pursue education and careers in STEM. The UN General Assembly even declared February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day recognizes the critical role women and girls play in science and technology and promotes full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls.
In honor of this important day, here are four ways to improve women’s and girls’ participation in technology fields:
Provide meaningful ways for girls to build STEM skills
To help girls feel more comfortable with the tech field, there’s an opportunity to introduce computing courses early in elementary school through high school. These programs can encourage young girls to maintain their interest in STEM fields.
Partnerships can help organizations make meaningful strides in representation, especially for girls and women. It’s never too early to introduce girls to technology and supporting their passion early can lead to a meaningful career in the future. These programs are focused on helping girls understand the different opportunities that will be available to them if they pursue a STEM major in school.
At Intuit, we partner with organizations around the world that encourage building STEM skills for girls, that includes groups such as She Codes in Israel to provide a framework for learning and programming within a community. Canada Learning Code in Canada brings accessible computer science to communities across Canada so everyone can create with technology. Our summer immersion program with Girls Who Code helps increase the number of girls interested in technology, starting at an early age. This program actively helps close the gender gap while actively introducing girls to a career in technology. Intuit Rise supports and empowers young girls in India by providing holistic education support including after school education, life skills training and career guidance. Through employee referrals and relevant NGO partnerships, we’ve supported 360 girls since the program’s start in 2017.
Encourage hands-on experience
While introducing girls to technology at a young age is a start, it’s never too late to give women the opportunity to gain the experience they need to start their career in technology. Organizations can develop meaningful programs to develop technical talent, which not only supports women but helps diversify representation and ideas, which often leads to even more innovation. These internships or job shadowing programs provide a chance for women to gain tangible technology skills. Participants can learn in a hands-on manner, and are connected to others who are passionate about the field. The skills they learn can even help provide the experience they need to start a technical career.
Intuit Again is our returnship program for technologists in India and the U.S. who took an extended leave from the workforce for caregiving purposes and return with a supportive on-ramp. To date, through our Intuit Again program, we’ve offered full time roles to almost 50 women technologists who completed our program and wanted to re-enter the workforce after a career break. We also have a six-month software development apprenticeship program in partnership with AnitaB.org and Treehouse, to increase the representation of women and historically excluded individuals in tech.
Create support networks
Mentoring is one of the most important confidence builders that can be found day to day on the job or in school. The value of mentorship is irreplaceable. Finding a mentor early on can do wonders for building confidence and translating it into career satisfaction.
Organizations can create mentorship programs that help employees learn, develop, grow and thrive in today’s ever-changing environment. These programs not only help mentees but mentors often learn just as much from their mentees, which can lead to higher retention rates and happier employees.
In addition to mentoring programs, companies can empower employees to create employee resource groups aligned to your company mission and values. These groups are often formed from commonalities such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or shared interests. They can lay the foundation for a culture of diversity and inclusion, while also helping to build understanding, empathy and capability for your employees and customers.
At Intuit, we have many mentoring programs available to employees. Ranging from programs at Intuit sites like Israel’s Individual Contributor Mentoring Program, to those supporting military families, and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, we believe everyone can benefit from being mentored. In addition to the general mentoring programs, Intuit also offers a Tech Women Mentorship Program, connecting tech women and underrepresented minorities in tech. The initiative facilitates one-to-one mentoring relationships connecting mentees with leaders and champions in the organization to invest, learn and develop. Additionally, the company has a thriving Women’s Employee Resource Group across all its sites. This is a grassroots voluntary network that inspires and supports women to be strong, compassionate leaders who make a difference.
If your company doesn’t have any formal mentoring programs, there are still ways for you to find mentoring opportunities. Reach out to someone you’ve admired, tap into an alumni network, post on your social network, or ask colleagues for recommendations based on your goals. As you grow your career, don’t forget to give back and find opportunities to mentor others. Mentorship can be an invaluable resource throughout all stages of your career.
Encourage inclusivity and diversity at all levels
Representation is a key step in creating an inclusive and equitable environment where all employees can do the best work of their lives. Today’s companies are well aware that women in positions of power can lead to more innovation and better outcomes. It’s important to be intentional about building initiatives and company policies built with women in mind. Our CEO, Sasan Goodarzi, is known for his passion for building an inclusive culture and he regularly reminds all of us that diversity is a fact and inclusion is a choice.
Research from the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation shares that leaders often nurture talent who look like themselves in terms of race and gender. Building a thriving community supporting technical women is brought to life with engaging events, women-led employee resource groups, fireside chats and interactive workshops, volunteer opportunities, and more for women (and allies) to connect, learn, and build meaningful relationships throughout every level of the company.
Over the past few years, we have seen women in technical roles increase at Intuit. In the past fiscal year, we met our goal in representation of women in technology, reaching 30% of our technology organization but we want to do more both within our company and beyond.
Creating an environment that encourages girls from an early age to pursue technology fields is essential in advancing their participation in the workforce. Whether it’s donating to organizations, promoting young women in STEM, volunteering to mentor, or developing company policies that push for more diversity and inclusivity, there’s plenty we can do to continue advancing such efforts to shape the future for many girls and women.