We belong to a digital world. Technology has become an integral part of our lives and is constantly transforming. Whether we are at work, at home, or standing at the bus stop, our waking moments are woven with the presence of technology.
If stereotypes are to be believed, women are not interested in the latest technology. But of course, this isn’t true. In 2012, women were identified as the lead adopters for a wide range of technologies in ten categories, ranging from internet usage, Skype and health-care devices. Not only is there evidence showing women do take an interest in new tech, but research also shows women control the majority of household spending. Women are, as to be expected, key consumers. Yet, there remains to be a shortage of women working in tech. This means the employees at tech companies are not representative of the customers they produce for!
Apple has geared up to tackle this problem head-on. Working in partnership with Girls Who Code, Apple will be providing after-school Swift tutorials for girls in grades 6 to 12. Research demonstrates that women who try AP Computer Science are ten times more likely to major in it (seven times more likely if African American or Hispanic). It appears exposure is a necessary component to achieve better representation in tech companies, therefore, we could expect these after school programs to yield positive results.
Through bolstering their efforts to produce women coders, Apple, and other major companies are bound to see the benefit. Women, in general, shop for tech differently than their male counterparts. Men tend to get excited by a product’s potential, often deliberating how it may be improved upon. Women, on the other hand, consider how the product will immediately fit into and improve their lives, considering the full experience of the product before purchase. Although aesthetic appeal may help sway consumers, making products pink is not a viable method for selling to women. Women are interested in the practical benefits of technology. How are a team without women supposed to produce products that cater to female customers?
Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t stop with getting women into tech roles. Once hired, women continue to face barriers in the workplace. Even at Apple, women are barely represented at the executive levels. Unfortunately, women have reported facing discrimination at the intern level too. Dissatisfaction and stagnation within a tech career is a common experience. Athena Factor 2.0 unveils 80 percent of U.S., 87 percent of Brazilian, 90 percent of Chinese and 93 percent of Indian women in the field of science, engineering, and technology love their work. However, a significant number felt they were stalled and were considering leaving within the year. Their reasons included a hostile macho culture, feelings of isolation and a paucity of effective sponsors.
It’s clear problems exist on two levels. First, we need to get women into tech and see more efforts from companies to represent women at all levels of their workforce. Secondly, the companies must create an open culture or the efforts to address the shortage at the school level won’t be enough. Women don’t leave tech due to lack of ability, but due to an isolating culture that favours men and devalues their contributions.
Girls Who Code are one organisation working hard to help girls and women enter the world of computer science. Through their work with Apple, we hope to see a better gender balance within the tech industry. However, companies must work on creating a supportive, accepting culture to allow the women they hire to thrive during their careers while providing equal opportunities for job advancement. Women deserve an equal part in creating our future, which will, of course, find shape through the evolution of technology.