(BPT) - Technology jobs continue to evolve, offering career opportunities as well as job security. Traditionally these jobs have been filled by men, but industry leaders and educational experts are calling for change. One strategy that is gaining momentum is engaging girls at a younger age.
Women in tech: The current landscape
There is a sizable gap with women and minorities in tech careers. While women make up approximately half of the U.S. workforce, they are critically underrepresented in the technology sector, making up only 28% of the industry. These numbers are even lower for women of color seeking opportunities in the field, with only 3% of computing-related jobs being filled by African American women, 6% by Asian women and 2% by Hispanic women.
Closing the gap
While hiring initiatives and higher education outreach are fundamental efforts to promote change, some experts believe closing the gap depends on reaching girls while they are still young, ensuring they stay informed, engaged and inspired.
“All girls need to see that women have an important role in the future of technology. Learning about STEM, experiencing activities and seeing women represented in these careers will help fuel the next generation of female technology professionals,” said Dr. La’Quata Sumter, professor at DeVry University’s College of Engineering and Information Sciences.
Sumter knows hands-on experiences matter for younger students. She is also the founder and CEO of Focusing on Me, Inc., which sponsors an initiative that provides teachers and facilitators with the tools and resources to teach drone technology to their students.
Group efforts inspire change
Efforts like Sumter’s are important in reaching girls and ensuring today’s youth is prepared for the careers of tomorrow. More organizations are recognizing the importance of exposing girls to science, technology, engineering, and math — commonly called STEM — and adopting social responsibility programs to make a difference.
One initiative gaining worthwhile attention is HerWorld by DeVry University. The program introduces middle school girls to STEM by building their digital fluency and technology confidence while also encouraging curiosity in tech careers. HerWorld engages young women in underrepresented school districts by sharing stories about the types of careers they could have with technology and to give them hands-on interaction with different types of technology.
Empowering girls during the summer
Even while school is out, it’s important to keep girls engaged in STEM. The summer months can be the ideal time to explore new hobbies and activities that promote curiosity and competency in technology.
Families with young girls should look to their local communities and organizations that have summer programs to keep girls engaged in STEM. One option is Girls Inc., which provides year-round after-school programming, weekend activities, and experiences that expand upon and support girls’ STEM learning.
"Ensuring kids have tech fluency and confidence is more crucial than ever. Girls are able to identify STEM concepts in everyday life and are introduced to women pursuing STEM careers, which makes it more relatable and their goals more feasible," said LaKesha Jackson, STEM Coordinator for Girls Inc., of Greater Atlanta.
Sumter agrees. "The need to prepare today’s youth for the careers of tomorrow has never been more crucial. By opening the conversation and providing opportunities to young girls, the future will be brighter for everyone," she added.