Men and Women Cite Different Reasons, Universities Struggle With Diversity at the Faculty and Staff Level Too, Number of Female-Founded Y Combinator Startups Is Trending Upward, 2015 White House Science Fair, D.C. is the Best City for Women in Tech

Men and Women Cite Different Reasons for the Lack of Women in Technology

Forbes recently featured two articles discussing reasons for the lack of women in technology — one from a male perspective and the other from a female perspective — that demonstrate wide gender differences in the perception of this issue. The first article, titled “The Real Reason Most Women Don't Go Into Tech,” was written by Gene Marks, a contributing writer at Forbes and regular writer for The Washington Post. Marks sums up the problem as one of choice: that women have the resources and opportunities for tech careers available to them, but they choose careers in areas such as education, nursing, social work, and counseling because they tend to be more flexible and therefore more attractive to women who want to have children and careers.

The counterpoint article, written by Tracey Welson-Rossman, founder of TechGirlz and titled “The Real Reason Most Women Don't Go Into Tech, According To Women,” rebukes Marks’ assertions and instead calls out the unattractive way in which technology jobs are presented to girls and women. She notes, “The facts are clear: girls think computer careers are boring, the media portrays techies as nerds and geeks, schools offer few programming or tech classes, and parents do not fully understand all the choices that tech offers for careers.” Welson-Rossman cites the work that Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe has done to increase the percentage of female computer science majors at her school from 10% to 40% in six years. TechGirlz has a similar goal, and Welson-Rossman notes that after just one workshop, 70% of the girls who attend have positively changed their opinions about having a career in technology.

NCWIT has many resources to promote girls’ interest in technology, including a new “Top 10 Ways Families Can Encourage Girls' Interest in Computing” for families and “Top 10 Ways of Recruiting High School Women into Your Computing Classes” for educators.

Universities Struggle With Diversity at the Faculty and Staff Level Too

Did you know? The challenge for diversity at universities extends beyond just students: It also includes faculty and staff. A report released in late February by MIT revealed that racial minorities comprise 2% to 8% of the university’s postdoctoral fellow, academic staff, research staff, and faculty populations, while women comprise 22% to 36% of these populations. The effort was spearheaded by Ed Bertschinger, MIT’s newly established Institute and Community Equity Officer (ICEO), and the report is the result of extensive research conducted during his first 18 months of tenure. Previously, Bertschinger had headed MIT’s Department of Physics, where he carried out successful initiatives to increase the number of women and racial minorities who graduate from the department. Although MIT has done well at diversifying its undergraduate student population, with 24% racial minorities and 45% women reported, the research indicates that the university has a long way to go to boost its faculty and non-faculty research staff to similar levels.

One of the primary recommendations of the report is that MIT should provide implicit bias training for everyone in the MIT community, because such bias can affect every form of assessment and evaluation on campus, including student reviews of faculty teaching. NCWIT has a number of resources for assisting institutions of higher learning with increasing diversity and reducing bias, including the newly released “NCWIT Tips: 7 Tips for Conducting Inclusive Faculty Searches.” Additionally, NCWIT’s Promising Practice “Georgia Tech Mentoring Program for Faculty Advancement” offers a case study for facilitating faculty advancement through mentoring.

The Number of Female-Founded Y Combinator Startups Is Slowly Trending Upward

In advance of the recent semiannual Demo Days event put on by Y Combinator, the startup incubator of choice among tech entrepreneurs, FiveThirtyEight reviewed the organization’s statistics on the number of its seed-funded startups with at least one female founder. The winter 2015 numbers — with 23% of the companies applying and 22% of the companies funded led by a woman — represent progress over the previous batch, of which 24% of the companies that applied and 20% of the companies funded had a female founder. Overall, the FiveThirtyEight graph of the number of women-led Demo Days companies funded in relation to the number of companies that applied over the past 10 years shows an improving trend, though there is still much progress to be made. Y Combinator has demonstrated its commitment to promoting women in tech startups with its Female Founders Conference, which debuted last year and was held again in February. The event provides an opportunity for women it has funded and other leading female tech entrepreneurs to share their stories and advice on building a company with aspiring female entrepreneurs.

Among the women-led seeds for the Winter 2015 Y Combinator sessions are SIRUM, which redistributes surplus medication from pharmacies to those who need it at a lower cost, and Campus Job, which helps collect students find part-time jobs and internships.

Research shows a number of benefits associated with a gender-diverse staff, including better financial performance, particularly when women occupy a significant proportion of top management positions, as well as superior team dynamics. More details can be found in the NCWIT resource “What is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance? Research Summary.”

The 2015 White House Science Fair Featured More Girls and Women Than Ever Before, Including Four Young Women From the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Program

This year’s White House Science Fair, held on March 23, was exciting for several reasons. First, the event featured more girls and women in science than ever before, with more than 100 students from more than 30 states, representing more than 40 different STEM competitions and related organizations. Second, four NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing recipients — Sreya Atluri, Maureen “Reeny” Botros, Anvita Gupta, and Sophia Sánchez-Maes — were honored guests. They were also featured in several local news outlets including Cronkite News, as well as mentioned in national outlets including U.S. News. A White House video captures President Obama’s tour of the science fair exhibits (including appearances by Anvita at minute 12:14 and Sophia at minute 50:32). Details of these girls are included in NCWIT’s press release about the occasion.

In addition, several NCWIT Alliance Members also participated, including the National Girls Collaborative Project, (NGCP) which announced its launch of The Connectory, and the Girl Scouts “Supergirls” Junior FIRST Lego League Team, which presented its battery-powered robot made of Legos. CyberPatriot, Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE), The New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), MIT, and FIRST Robotics were also in attendance.

Last, President Obama pledged $240 million in new private-sector commitments to inspire and prepare more girls and boys, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to excel in the STEM fields. In addition, the Department of Education will launch a $25 million grant competition to support the creation of science and literacy themed media that inspires children, especially those from low-income homes, to play and explore.

The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is a national initiative for young women in computing and information technology, from 5th grade through graduate school. The Aspirations program is supported nationally by AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Northrop Grumman, and Symantec. Find out more at www.aspirations.org.

Washington, D.C. is the Best City for Women in Technology

A study released in February by personal finance website SmartAsset revealed that, among U.S. cities with 200,000 or more residents, Washington, D.C. ranked the highest for women in the technology field. A key reason for this, the study notes, is the presence of the federal government. SmartAsset used the Census definition of ‘computer occupations,’ which include positions such as computer systems analysts, research scientists, software developers, and programmers. According to the results, 37.2% of the tech jobs in D.C. are held by women, with a female-to-male earnings ratio of 93.3%. In the second-ranked city, Kansas City, Missouri, women held 32.8% of the tech jobs, but, interestingly, averaged higher pay than men, with a gender pay gap of 106.6%. The other cities rounding out the top five included Fremont, California; Houston, Texas; and New York, New York. The only other city where women were reported to have a higher average pay than men was in Arlington, Texas, which ranked 15th on the list with 22.8% of tech jobs held by women.

NCWIT’s many resources to help recruit and retain women in tech jobs include “Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing a Diverse Technical Workforce: Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines” and “Top 10 Ways Managers Can Retain Technical Women.”