The BBC’s Jane Wakefield published a thought-provoking article last week – Why don’t girls want to be geeks?
According to the article 84% of IT professionals are men, so it seems with close to 30% women, Web Applications has more than our fair share of female programmers. I caught up with a few of our female Software Engineers – Clare Sudbery, Claire Barker and Emma Maloney to find out what they think.
At university, Emma studied Computer Games Development and was one of just two females in a class of fifty. Outside of her specific course, there were a few more women in other computing courses but developing games is very much still a masculine career. On Claire’s university course there were 200 men and only 40 women. Since then, the most women she’s worked with has been here at Web Applications UK. At previous employers she has been one of very few or the only woman in the workplace.
The question of why many women don’t even consider a career in IT may boil down to a question of nature v nurture. Perhaps women are less likely to enjoy intensive logical problem-solving or maybe girls grow up believing it’s not something they are supposed to enjoy.
Clare has experienced an internal battle stemming from growing up believing that girls weren’t supposed to be good at maths and problem solving or be interested in computers and men were generally better at those things.
In such a male-dominated industry, the few women within it seem to hold the weight of the entire gender on their shoulders. A lack of confidence combined with that pressure can put a lot of women off pursuing a career in technology.
Clare believes that an increase of women in technology roles is only important if women want to. Women who are interested in a career in IT should have maximum opportunities but perhaps IT is an industry that simply attracts more men.
Emma believes bringing more women into technology based careers is vital as more diversity is sure to produce more innovation. She recognises that this doesn’t just apply to gender, it applies to every kind of person there is. The more accessible technology is the more people will be attracted to a related career. Things like the Raspberry Pi should help with this.
While the geek image doesn’t help, it’s definitely not the only reason for the lack of girls in IT.