Picture a software engineer or video game developer. What do you see?
Chances are it's not a woman. Even though there are efforts such as Beauty and Brains Girls STEM Club underway to encourage girls to pursue these fields-the pipeline of women entering these fields is very, very small.
In today’s world, girls are being encouraged to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields from a very young age, yet the facts don’t change. Significantly fewer women than men are graduating college with degrees in computer science or engineering. As a result, those women that do enter the workforce with degrees in STEM fields have little to no trouble finding a job.
According to Tufts University’s associate dean of graduate education and tenured professor of engineering, Karen Panetta, the question is “Which job will I take?”
WHY ARE SO MANY BUSINESSES LOOKING TO HIRE WOMEN?
There are several reasons why women in these fields often have their choice of jobs. First and foremost, anyone who holds a computer science degree is in high demand, whether they are male or female. This doesn’t only apply to high-tech firms, as more and more sectors are beginning to understand that their future lies in computing and digital technology. For example, Shift, an online site that buys and sells used cars, offers a $20,000 referral fee to any individual who recommends a talented engineer who is ultimately hired, according to Minnie Ingersoll, cofounder and COO.
Along with increased demand, employers are feeling pressure to increase gender diversity in their workplace. According to Ingersoll,"Companies know they need women because [otherwise] they will be shamed by the press and outspoken advocates." In addition to the fear of being shamed by the media, smart companies realize t
hat women often prove to be a significant asset to their bottom line.
Elizabeth Brown, the chief people officer of Unity Technologies, which offers services and products for game developers, has said that while 50% of gamers are female, only 22% of game developers are women. She went on to say, “So it makes good business sense to want to hire more women developers because the people who create the games should represent an industry's customer base.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A WOMAN IN A MALE DOMINATED FIELD? According to Hope, Bovenzi, a system applications engineer at Texas Instruments, who is the lone woman on a team of 20, she must be more vocal or even “pushy” to be heard. Panetta stated, “It can be particularly problematic when they're working for male managers from other countries, where women are not seen as equals.” As a result, some companies are having a hard time retaining women over a long term period of time. Panetta explained that corporations are hiring a number of women right out of college only to lose them within five years because of work culture. Additionally, there is an issue with pay gaps. Panetta, who also works the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), reported that it is not unusual for some female graduates to learn they have been offered anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 less than their male peers. In this case, she urges them to go back and ask for more money. Overall, for women working in STEM fields, Panetta, strongly suggests, “Be bold.”