Jen Sweeney, a technology focused freelance journalist for The Fourth Industrial Revolution, lists TechGirlz as one of the organizations pushing for new approaches to change the gender status in tech. The article discusses the historical strides Betty Holberton took to prove women should and could be in tech, as well as the importance of having programs in place to support the current/next generation of women in tech. The full article was originally published January 03, 2019 in the The Fourth Industrial Revolution section of Verizon.com.
Betty Holberton had an unforgettable first day at the University of Pennsylvania. Her math professor asked if she’d be better off at home raising children. That was the 1940s. Holberton proved her professor wrong, very wrong. She became a coding pioneer, one of six women who programmed ENIAC, the world’s first successful commercial computer.
Nearly 70 years after Holberton helped propel the world into the digital age, gender discrimination and stereotypes continue to prevent women from learning the necessary skills to get hired for many tech jobs. Women account for only five percent of leadership positions in the technology industry. New approaches to education are needed to change the status quo.
The Holberton School, named in honor of Betty Holberton, is one of several new efforts designed to close the digital divide between genders. Co-founder Sylvain Kalache said Holberton’s story resonated with him and fellow founder Julien Barbier so much they named the school in her honor.
“A lot of what we have now is thanks to her,” says Kalache about Holberton’s contribution to technology. “She was discriminated against, but she won ultimately. Betty was not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
Likewise, programs like Verizon Innovative Learning, Women Who Code, Girls Who Code, TechGirlz, Move the Dial and others aim to close the gender skills gap with courses, access, and efforts to change laws.
Despite these and other initiatives, gender parity remains elusive. According to a 2017 World Economic Forum report, the global overall gender gap will take 100 years to close at the current rate of change.
TechGirlz aims to reduce the gender gap by focusing on girls at the middle school age. The non-profit creates short, interactive workshops taught by people with solid tech knowledge.
“I want to reach a point where I want to put TechGirlz out of business,” says the organization’s co-founder Tracey Welson-Rossman. “When we do that, we know we’ve been successful in changing how people feel about women in tech, about being smart, and how girls feel about themselves and their worth in the innovation economy.”