Technology companies have a diversity problem. The number of women in tech has been steadily declining since the 1980s. Only recently at Colorado State University, has the number of women enrolled in Computer Science increased from 7% in 2013 to 11.3% in 2016.
As still the only woman programmer on my software development team 13 years after starting, my passion is to increase the diversity in software development.
As a mom of a 2yo girl and 5yo boy I constantly check my unconscious bias – am I raising both my children to know they have the same opportunities and capabilities? Researchers at the University of Washington found that by age 7, children implicitly associate numbers with boys instead of girls. Microsoft researchers found that by age 11, girls become interested in STEM subjects; however, by age 15 they lose interest and it rarely recovers. Computers and video games are for both girls and boys; foster a love of numbers, math and problem solving in your girls and boys; constantly check your unconscious bias.
Recognizing that there is a diversity problem and making others aware of the gender gap is the first step. At my organization I’ve organized a monthly diversity meeting to read, watch talks and discuss these issues. I presented to the entire company on life as a woman in tech. Start with awareness and then work towards changes.
I strive to change the face of your typical software engineer to inspire more women to enter tech. If we change the stereotypes of programming and show young women that women do exist in tech, we can encourage more girls to consider degrees in computer science. For example, I have spoken with high school women on my path and life as a woman in tech and taught courses through Front Range Community College. I want to be a role model for girls and women interested in technology.
I’ve made it 13 years, but life as one of the few women in tech is hard and exhausting. It’s not just me either, after 10 years, there is a 41% quit rate of women in tech (compared to 17% for men); we don’t see the career opportunities and are just burned out.
To learn more, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap is a phenomenal documentary on the lack of women in computer science. The history from the 1950s (women were in fact the first programmers!) to where we are now is astounding.
There are changes you and I can make today. I have to check my unconscious bias daily. Raise children to know they have the same opportunities. Give the women candidates and resumes a second look; was it your unconscious bias that put that resume in the no pile? Small checks on yourself can change the path of your life, someone else’s life, or the future of your organization.
About The Speaker
Darlene Rouleau is a UI/UX Software Engineer for Schneider Electric.