The Importance of Women in Tech
International Women’s Day is right around the corner, on March 8. It’s a day that celebrates and underscores the vital role women have played in shaping modern society. Lately we’ve been hearing more and more about the importance of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Inspirational female scientists and tech figures are not a new concept. From Marie Curie to Sally Ride to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, women have long played a vital role in scientific and technological advancement and innovation.
Yet, while women make up nearly half of the total workforce, they represent only 26% of the STEM workforce, as of 2011. STEM workers account for only 6% of the total workforce, and though there has been a doubling down on the importance of STEM education over the last 10-15 years, it seems that there has only very recently been a big push to encourage girls and young women to take a seat at the tech table.
As a male working in the tech industry, I can tell you that my entire career so far has been shaped by strong, brilliant and inspiring women. My mom, a former network engineer turned IT project manager, fostered my love for technology from a young age. She taught me how to use a computer, never shied away from explaining her job or the projects she was working on, and encouraged me to explore math and science—though neither subject is a strong suit of mine. I fall more on the creative than the analytical side of the thought spectrum, but her guidance was valuable in expanding my horizons and making sure my education was diverse and well-rounded. It’s only recently that I’ve come to fully appreciate her journey and how truly impressive her success has been.
At Avaya, I’ve worked for and with women who inspire me every day. My role is in the marketing organization, and while neither their or my own experience is in the hard sciences, I don’t think it can be overstated how meaningful their success in the tech sector is. I’m proud to be a part of their team not just because their achievement in the industry is significant, but because they are truly some of the best at what they do, and have gone a long way to mentor and guide me on my own path to success. Not all women in technology have to be engineers, programmers or solutions designers. Marketers, writers and creative types are just as welcome—it’s about a love of the field and a passion for the technology itself.
I’m overjoyed to see the focus on STEM education in general, but the push to afford girls and young women the opportunity to pursue these fields is vital. Doing so helps to close the gender wage gap, brings different perspectives into the workplace, and creates more well-rounded individuals. Science and technology are how we advance as a culture, and how we can change the world. If you have a daughter, a niece, a mentee or student that expresses interest in STEM, help guide them along that path and keep the fire burning. More and more opportunities are opening for women in technology, and the field will be better for having them.