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Women are in coding… but where is their representation?

by Baylie Clevenger The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. Ada Lovelace is considered to be the first computer programmer. Annie Easley created the technology that we now use for hybrid cars. Dona Bailey helped give us the coin-operated Atari games that later evolved into computer games. Grace Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming. Women have always done important work in the world of technology, but with only 20% of technology career positions being filled by women, you’d never know it. Preconceived notions about which career fields women do and do not belong in make it easy to maintain a technology industry with little representation for women. Careers have been gendered since the beginning of time, and even though progress is being made to encourage women in STEM fields, the representation of women in tech is still slim. Women of color hold even fewer tech career positions with only 4%.

Who is trying to change it?

In November of 2018, Google held a competition to encourage young girls to be involved in tech. This competition revolved around designing apps for the Google Play Store and resulted in the grand prize winner receiving a $10,000 scholarship as well as a $15,000 technology contribution to her school. Women in Technology is also an organization that is making strides toward increasing women's’ opportunities in technology. WIT encourages women to pursue tech careers by providing them with important networking and mentoring opportunities. Their website states that they have more than 1,000 members that benefit from the opportunities they provide. Some other organizations that are contributing to the advancement of women in technology include Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code. They both have more resources for women who want to pursue a career in tech.

Why does it matter?

Overall, this is an issue of representation. Representation matters — it matters, because it tells people that there is a place in every career for every person. Throughout the history of the world, hierarchies of privilege have not always allowed everyone to have the chance to be in the career of their choice.
Image from The Humanities Index
Historically, women have always been in the workforce, but that does not necessarily mean that they have had access to the same jobs as men. In America, women entered the workforce during the industrial revolution and were exploited for cheap labor. During World War II women took the jobs that were previously held by men that were serving in the military. After the war was over, women still wanted to work, and they were forced into roles that were considered to be more feminine (i.e. secretaries, nurses, teachers, etc.). This period of time was pretty much the first time that women had careers rather than only having the option to stay home. Even so, women were still forced into roles seen as being more feminine. None of these roles included anything in STEM, which pushed women into a corner. Ideas about what people of certain genders can do have been consistently perpetuated since, and that has made it harder for women to break into tech.
Image from U.S. Department of Labor Blog
Taking time to dismantle oppressive ideas about who can have what job based on their assumed role in society would ultimately be beneficial to women who have big aspirations and tech companies that are looking for more brilliant minds. Some incredibly brilliant women have brought some of the most innovative and life-changing technology into this world. Clearly, allowing more brilliant minds to flourish in technology would advance the technological sphere even further.
Sources: Small Business TrendsUSA Today, Women in Technology, PBS Images: YouTube, U.S. Department of Labor BlogThe Humanities Index Featured Image: Tyler Westman