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Encouraging Women in Tech Careers

02 October 2015

For decades now women have been encouraged to believe that the only kind of technology they can and should be handling are household appliances. Daughters are given princess dresses whereas sons are given tools to make soapbox cars and treehouses. In a world where technology is deeply embedded in our day to day lives, where 55 percent of Twitter and Facebook users are female, is there enough encouragement for women to venture into the so called ‘boys’ club’s territory?

Since 2011 there has been a 34 percent increase in women graduating in computer science at Harvard, and from 2011 to 2012 the number of women in IT positions went up by 28.7 percent. According to this article on training.com.au, ICT demand in Australia will be 7.1 percent higher in 2017 than it is now, requiring an additional 33,200 workers. This represents an unprecedented opportunity for women to develop in the tech sector. Women in technology really is a hot topic at the moment, and with sites like Upworthy promoting a better education of feminist issues and gender diversity in the workplace, the numbers of women taking interest in and succeeding in this area of expertise should be on the rise.

(A recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald, indicates enrollments in IT by women are falling dramatically because of the perceived 'maleness' of the area.)

But science and tech are cool - look at the recent findings in the UK around women and computer games - proving more women play games than men. In American a company called Goldie Blox has gone viral over the past few months with a range of “toys for future innovators”, featuring intricate building platforms and an advertising campaign that shows little girls taking a stand against female stereotypes. It’s very aptly entitled “disrupting the pink aisle.”

Pioneers speaking and acting out on behalf of female techies have been around for a long time. Just two years after the first man, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkov beat 400 other hopefuls to become the first woman to go into space. Though there have only been 48 female astronauts against 286 male, Peggy Whitson holds second place for most hours spent in space. 

Marita Cheng

Marita Cheng (above) a young Australian robotics engineer graduate (and an Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee) began Robogals in 2008, an education enterprise to get more young school girls interested in pursuing a career in science, maths, engineering, technology.

Another one from the history books is Lillian Gilbreth, the first woman to earn a degree in industrial psychology, receiving her doctorate from Brown University in 1915. Later in 1926 she became the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and went on to become the first female teacher at the School of Engineering at Purdue University in 1935, all whilst raising her 12 children. She’s definitely a pioneering tech girl worth remembering.

After her husband died, Martha J. Coston developed his unfinished design for a naval signal flare, getting the design to work with use of pyrotechnics. Coston secured a patent for the signals system in 1859 and it was bought by the US army for $20,000. The night signals have been used by the army ever since.

There are so many successful women in history who have battled and won against female stereotypes in the workplace. Learning about them and encouraging girls to look up to them is a positive strategy. 

Thumbnail image: Peter Hayes https://www.flickr.com/photos/inlinguamanchester/5036313154/in/photostream/

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