If you are reading this blog post, you may or may not be familiar with Bellefield. However, to know us, is to understand that innovation drives much of what we do on a daily basis. We’ve written about innovation before and consider it an integral part of our company culture. It’s part of the fabric that defines who we are.
While many things factor into innovation, one enhancement to the ability to innovate is diversity. An organization is at its best when it is rich with many varying perspectives. This can include, but of course is not limited to, gender, race, economic background, age and expertise.
As a woman in technology, I know first hand that my population is underrepresented in a major way. But, why?
It's puzzling, really, as to why women are underrepresented in technology especially when there are more women than men who earn college degrees. However, women still are in the vast minority in fields such as computer science and, unfortunately, that number has declined significantly in the past 20 years (down 50%). Despite the fact that 57% of bachelor degrees are earned by women, only 12% of computer science degrees are held by women.
What gives? In a recent post on LinkedIn, Myra T Travin recounted a recent experience when she was asked why there aren't more women in tech while attending an industry event. Ms. Travin's response was: “The environment,” referring to the difficulty she has experienced relating to other team members as the only woman and the resulting loneliness.
While that is the experience for many women in tech today, what’s stopping young girls from choosing STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) disciplines? Kimberly Kiel remembered her early experiences as a elementary student studying STEM. Kiel recounted, “the small sliver of fear that would sometimes threaten to stop me from raising my hand in a hard science class because of the backlash I might receive.... in third grade.” Kiel’s experience was not limited to her early years, she continued to encounter educators that discouraged her, as a young women, from pursuing such an ambitious career track.
There is no mistaking the fact that our personal experiences shape the trajectory of our lives. In Kiel’s case, these experiences (combined with the support of her parents) only made her more passionate and motivated to achieve her goals. However, for many other young women, these experiences can result in a lack of confidence and a desire to pursue other interests.
Meg Urry, in an article that appeared on Dell’s Tech Page One, discussed the role of culture in early career decisions:
“I see so many talented young women with strong interest in STEM, including physics (which has one of the lowest percentages of women)—I know these fields are attractive to them, until something changes their minds. The problems have to be about culture and environment. The enormous differences between countries in the percentage of scientists and engineers who are women demonstrates this very clearly.”
Why does all of this matter? The need for talent is real and so is the need to meet the demands of the market in STEM careers. According to Travin, by 2020 there will be a 1,000,000 more jobs than students. As she said, “you are going to need us.” We need talented women and men in computer science, not only to meet the needs of tomorrow’s technology but to drive future innovations.
Despite an early interest in STEM disciplines, young girls shy away from pursuing science and technology at an early age. Society plays a critical role in either encouraging or discouraging young women on an individual basis from pursuing certain goals. There are several initiatives focused on empowering young women and girls to pursue a STEM education and learn high-in-demand skills, such as coding. Please support these efforts and be a part of promoting STEM careers in a positive way.
At Bellefield, we not only embrace and recognize the value of diversity, but we are proud to say that 50% of our team is comprised of women, which is unusual for a technology company in the legal market. In order for companies like us to continue to innovate, we need diverse teams comprised of many different perspectives. Tomorrow's tech future is bright - but we can't do it without the girls!
Why do you think that women shy away from STEM? How can we encourage women to pursue careers in technology.