Sheryl Sandberg, LinkedIn and the Anita Borg Institute recently announced a new program directed at female college students studying computer science and engineering. The primary goal of the Lean In Circles program being offered on college campuses is to offer peer support and mentorship to women who want to pursue careers in technology.
We applaud the effort. Every bit helps in the efforts to close the gender gap in not only technology, but STEM fields in general.
But while this program and others like it are great, they ignore two significant realities.
- Middle school is where girls start to opt out of pursuing interests in tech or STEM in general. Girls need to be interested in potential STEM careers well before college. Providing education, exposure to tech careers, peer support and mentorship to high school and college age girls is necessary, but by that point, we have already lost girls who showed an early interest in tech or who have ignored tech as a potential career field because they did not have the exposure and knowledge to consider it.
- This program and many others like it have a focus on students studying computer science or are all about learning to code. Working in tech is not just about coding. There are so many other careers and leadership positions in tech that do not include writing code. Part of what has created the current gender gap in technology is the perceived stereotype that the only way to “work in tech” is to be a programmer. Not everyone wants to or is suited to be a programmer. There are a myriad of other tech related careers that girls need to be made aware of. A few of these careers are highlighted in this infographic.
This is why TechGirlz is so important. We recognize the need to start earlier and with a different type of message.
While every effort made to include more women in STEM fields needs to be encouraged. It is imperative that any of these efforts do not encourage mindsets that continue to hold back equalizing the gender imbalance in tech.
Change the gender equation in tech.