Women in Innovation: How Women Have Changed, Are Changing and Will Change the Technology Industry

By Robert Half on March 17, 2015 at 7:00am

This post is the first in our new “Women in Innovation” series. Why focus on women, specifically? Because they will have a significant impact on the success of the technology industry in the years to come.

The U.S. tech sector is facing a shortage of skilled technology talent: In a recent survey by Robert Half Technology, 67 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) said it is somewhat or very challenging to find qualified IT professionals. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2022 employers will be looking to fill more than 1.3 million computer and mathematical job openings.

However, by helping to address the so-called “gender gap” in its workforce — that is, increasing the number of women working in technical roles that require specialized skills — the technology industry has an opportunity to alleviate, if not resolve, its talent crisis.

Ample room for growth

Some of you may wonder, “Is the gender gap in the technology field really that significant?” While many women throughout history have made tremendous contributions to and pursued successful careers in tech and related fields, women have long been a small population in that workforce. Consider these recent statistics from the BLS:

  • 23 percent of computer programmers are women
  • 7 percent of software developers, applications and systems software professionals are women
  • 5 percent of network architects are women

In time, the number of women in technology positions of all types will hopefully increase significantly as more women pursue degrees and careers in tech.

Accelerating change

According to recent research by the Center for Talent Innovation, only 38 percent of women in the United States who work in “SET” (science, engineering and technology) organizations get leadership’s endorsement for their ideas, compared to 44 percent of men.

Fortunately, there are many people and organizations trying to connect women with the right resources to help them succeed. Just some examples:

  • Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, recently announced that Facebook plans to launch a mentoring program specifically for women in technology. Facebook and other companies are partnering with Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise “on a quest to accelerate the pace of global innovation by working to ensure that the creators of technology mirror the people and societies who use it.”
  • Million Women Mentors looks to grow “the interest and confidence of girls and young women to persist and succeed” in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and careers. By engaging one million mentors, male and female, Million Women Mentors is working to increase the percentage of: high school girls planning to pursue STEM careers; U.S. young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in STEM fields; and U.S. women staying in STEM careers.
  • National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), a nonprofit community of more than 575 universities, companies, nonprofits, and government organizations nationwide, is committed to increasing women’s participation in computing and technology. As NCWIT notes on its website: “The lack of girls and women in computing and technology represents a failure to capitalize on the benefits of diverse perspectives: in a world dependent on innovation, it can bring the best and broadest problem-solvers to the table; and at a time when technology drives economic growth, it can yield a larger and more competitive workforce.”

In the months ahead, we’ll track the progress of initiatives like these through our Women in Innovation series. We will also explore how women, including famous women inventors, have been catalysts in the tech industry, and how leading women in technology are transforming the sector now. And we’ll take a look at best practices that organizations are applying to recruit, develop and retain women technology professionals, and encourage and invest in their ideas.

Finally, each post in this series will end with an “assignment.” This is our way of motivating readers to think about how they, as individuals, can help to grow women’s influence in the tech sector. The first assignment: Join a professional network or membership association that actively promotes the advancement of women in the technology profession.

Check out our other posts on women in technology here and here.


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