Small Steps: Introducing Young Women to Technology Careers Early

June 2, 2016 Keith Martin


36141-STL-sfeaturedOver the past several years, the tech industry has acknowledged the troubling numbers relative to the percentage of women in high tech positions, and overall, women choosing careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields—known collectively as STEM.

Programs driven from both a corporate and activist viewpoint are working to improve this gap, with the numbers improving, they still linger uncomfortably below 30%. For minority women, the numbers are even worse with white or asian males outnumbering them by 10 to 1.

I have benefitted greatly from a career in technology, but as a father of three—two of whom are daughters—I am concerned that we are not promoting technology as an impactful, prosperous career choice to young women, leading them to not even consider technology as an option. And these fears will be realized unless we collectively pause to reflect and challenge ourselves to at least contribute, in whatever small way, to improving this situation.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to listen to Cornelia Davis, Senior Director of Technology at Pivotal, give an impassioned talk on this topic (a video of the talk is embedded below). During this talk, Cornelia shared the experience she had of encouraging her niece to pursue a career in technology. She also shared some startling facts, such as girls stop raising their hands in class around age 11. This is when being smart becomes uncool somehow. This is the first place where girls start to drift their attention from STEM subjects.

While she shared the statistics and covered the issue in some detail, this anecdote relating to introducing a young woman to the opportunities in STEM fields left the most lasting impression for many. Point being, it isn’t always about the grand movement but simply continuing to highlight the wide array of choices in the technology space to young women, especially at the point where they are considering career opportunities. Ensuring that technology careers is at least a part of their thought process is a small, but impactful, step.

Through Pivotal’s grassroots diversity program, my colleague Bob Hoffman (father of two daughters), and other STL-based Pivotal team members, in collaboration with Hack4Hope, local schools, and local companies, are hosting an event on June 9 at the T-Rex technology incubator facility in St. Louis, to introduce young women who are late high school and early college age to careers in technology. The event will be facilitated by local media personalities, including Bonita Cornute (Fox 2), Abby Llorico (CBS 3), and Edward Domain (Channel 9), and we are thrilled Cornelia will be the keynote speaker.

It is a 1-day event highlighting the broad range of opportunities for careers in STEM fields, stories from women who have forged highly successful careers in technology, networking training, and hands-on workshops. You can find out more on the event page, and don’t forget to register! Please share this post with your family members, friends, and colleagues; and help us encourage young women in the St. Louis area to attend the event.

While there is a big hill to climb to improve how young women view technology as a career choice, all steps—big and small—are part of climbing the hill.

Register for the event on June 9th.


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