I’ve shared thoughts about how colleges can grow women participation in computer science programs this past week on The Huffington Post. I was among the early group of women to participate in a university science program years ago at Berkeley. It’s led to so many wonderful opportunities and experiences. I’d love to see more people enter the field, including women. You can read the article here.
As a computer science graduate and software engineer myself, the growing effort by organizations to encourage women and girls to code is exciting to see. It isn’t just about gender equality alone (though of course that is part), but the many unique, natural skills and talents that women can bring to technology development and innovation. That more people, be it women or men, might contribute to our country’s innovation, economic success and advancement is only a positive for everyone as well.
What’s important as these efforts and conversations continue forward is that it goes beyond exposing and encouraging women and girls to code, to helping them understand and chart their paths in the industry. While more women have entered the software engineering job market than ever, we are still not yet seeing women reach or embody some of the larger and leadership roles in organizations that they certainly have the skills to attain. This includes CTO, IT management, and lead (or ‘super engineer’) positions.
In order to truly help women and girls find their way in the market long-range, it’s equally important to expose them to the opportunities that exist and what skills or experience might be required to get there now. Here are a few important ways to help women and girls take the next step and set a course in software engineering business:
- Exposure To Opportunity – It’s often later in the career trajectory that we are exposed to the range of roles available. Helping women and girls get a sense of the variety of positions in software engineering early on is important. It goes beyond titles to the skills needed — what makes a ‘super engineer’ that an organization relies on when critical problems arise? What skills beyond coding do CTOs or CIOs need? From here, women and girls should be exposed to what they can do today to land in these roles in the future.
- Develop Collaboration and Participation Skills – Much of technology work is collaborative. Assertiveness, ideas, participation and relying on peers or peer knowledge are the backbone to many great technology products. As women and girls enter software engineering, helping them to develop and sharpen group participation and thinking skills at the start can be of long-range benefit to their work in the business.
- Drive Continued Learning – Nothing evolves as fast and often as technology! Encouraging a passion for ongoing learning and an understanding of the importance of remaining up to date on skills, technologies, and trends is key to anyone in the industry. Help women and girls entering the software engineering business to find continuing education, key media and other resources such as hack-a-thons or industry events to help them constantly stay ahead of the curve in their work.
- Looking Within – There are many types of work, roles to fill and other opportunities for software engineers. But what really matters is each individual’s understanding of his or her own talents, skills, interests, strengths, etc. in the market. A lot of women gravitate towards project management and QA work, and we can be sure that plays into their inherent detail orientation and other skill sets. But women and girls also have critical thinking, problem-solving and other key talents for CTO, CIO, and lead engineering positions. Encouraging women to explore where and what their natural talents and skills are can be an asset as they learn to code and beyond.
I really enjoyed this read in the New York Times about women and computer science programs at colleges and universities. Whether it is men or women, everyone can benefit from mentorship, but where it does directly affect women is by helping younger generations chart a course in the industry as well as build relationships that have long-range value. Although, this piece begs the question – what majors are women choosing if not in computer science? I highly recommend reading this article and I look forward to further thoughts and conversations about it.