Where Will the Next Generation of Female Tech Leaders Come From?
Last month I was lucky enough to collect an award at Red Magazine’s Hot Women Awards 2011, and spend time with women at the top of their fields, including Cary Marsh, who founded MyDeo, and Kate Burns, outgoing senior vice president of AOL Europe and former head of Google UK. Both are an inspiration to aspiring Lady Geeks.
Yet their progress puts into perspective the struggle women face in an industry where, according to e-skills UK, just 18 percent of employees are female The passing of Steve Jobs made me wonder when a woman will reach the status of Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page or Brin.
Today, as many women as men use tech (see my previous blogs); teenage girls and boys exhibit almost identical Internet usage. Yet ComputerWorld reports boys are five times more likely to enter technology careers. Why?
The problem is largely perception. Girls often want “creative” careers – advertising, PR and publishing. Why choose tech when all that’s offered a teenager is an IT class (spreadsheets, databases, PowerPoints, ZZZZZ…) or a home gaming console (made by boys, played by boys). Tech is seen as nerdy, dull and – dare I say it? – male.
We in technology know it is a creative place to work. Instead of boring girls to death, we should introduce cutting-edge skills early on and show them that technology is more about creating than about number crunching. Until we overhaul the relationship between tech and women from childhood on, the Carys and Kates of this world will remain an endangered species.