A July 2014 report “Women in Wireless” by Kelly Hill with RCR Wireless discusses something we’ve known for a long time: women’s participation in tech continues to lag. There’s been a lot of talk about reaching out to women to consider careers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) including efforts by the White House. Even Google has committed $50 million to “Made with Code,” encouraging young girls to get into the tech industry. And Verizon is doing its part encouraging young girls to consider careers in the industry.
But is that working? Two years ago, the president of Harvey Mudd College in California, Maria Klawe, was interviewed on PBS Newshour on why women are not pursuing careers in the STEM fields. Not much has changed since that conversation.
Her take on the issue – which is a constant frustration for those of us in the tech industry – is that despite the fact a lot of young women do go into chemistry and biology, they end up pursuing fields such as medicine. This is further fuelled by the fact that television shows have been glamorizing female doctors and lawyers, which has been a powerful attraction for those talented science grads.
So why does she say women don’t go into computer science? Three things it seems: it’s not interesting to them, they think they wouldn’t be good at it, and they don’t find the image of a tech career attractive (simply put, they see creating things with computers as a “boy thing”).
And what about the image of the female tech whiz? The first Jurassic Park movie stepped outside the box when it had the young girl play the part of the computer expert (a departure from the book where it was the brother who had the geek smarts.) And there are admittedly a few television series where female tech specialists are gaining a certain kind of quirky cachet. But glamor? Intrigue? Not so much. They’re usually the ones sitting in a room or the back of a van communicating over their Bluetooth headset while the rest of the gang takes to the field.
But that’s a far cry from what the tech industry really has to offer. The pay is great, the work is challenging, creative and flexible, and the industry is about as dynamic and collaborative as it gets in our humble opinion. And just about anyone with skills in this field, regardless of gender, is treated like gold. Then there’s the fact that a good majority of the tech industry is located in a pretty amazing part of the country (the lifestyle can’t be beaten).
As a tech company, we fight an uphill battle for talent at the best of times. Even those women who love computer science end up going after tech careers that relate to medicine, the arts, languages, or education. A growing number are also gravitating to what they perceive as more “glamorous” areas such as gaming – which is a tough act to follow on the image scale.
Everyone in our industry wants to see more women in the field. The truth is, something as pedestrian-sounding as RF (radio frequency) engineering, which is our stock in trade, can offer a surprising number of creative challenges. All we’re asking is that all you tech talents out there explore all the options before the bright lights beckon. You might be surprised at what lies behind the image.
Would you like to find out more about what the industry has to offer? We’ll be happy to fill you in about some of the opportunities at CEL-FI.
By the CEL-FI Team