– Destiny’s Child, 2000
It’s hard out there for independent women. According to Canadian Women in Technology, women make up 47 percent of the overall workforce in Canada. Yet they only constitute 24 percent of the tech sector workforce. An even smaller number hold management positions: only 14 of the 50 fastest growing tech companies in Canada employed women at the executive level, according to The Globe and Mail.
Why this disparity when it comes to women in IT? IT can be a social field with a wealth of collaboration opportunities. There is potential for almost limitless job prospects. And it can be a fun work environment while offering flexible hours and the potential for work-at-home opportunities to boot. Many times, though, young girls may have parents interested in pushing them down a different path or may not even have the necessary exposure in order to realize what a career in IT truly entails.
Technology-related educational opportunities are also paramount; while 74 percent of middle school girls were interested in science, math, and engineering, by the time they chose a college only 0.3 percent had picked computer science as a major. Advocacy and networking groups have also worked to help women understand their potential within the IT sector.
For some interesting insights into a women’s perspective as it relates to technology, Women and Tech provided an interview with Martha Ladly, a professor at OCAD University who is finishing her Ph.D. on women’s contribution to technology. In short, Ladly says many women need to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to trying something new and different. To be afraid to fail drops your chances at success down to zero.
Sites such as Ladies Learning Code, Girls in Tech Toronto, and CanWIT offer ways for women to train for tech careers and promote those already working within IT. The sites offer empowerment opportunities for women by advocating for an increased role within the typically male-dominated IT spectrum.
Ladies Learning Code is a non-profit organization based out of Toronto – as well as chapters across Greater Canada – which offers both men and women the opportunity to learn basic computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way.
Founded by Adriana Gascoigne, Girls in Tech Toronto has over 500 members in the local chapter. They host events/mixers, highlight great women within the fields of IT, and hold local conferences, among many other functions. The whole idea behind Girls in Tech is to inspire, promote, and facilitate the notion that women are just as capable – and, in many cases, more so – than men when it comes to performing in the IT sector.
In the end, to succeed as a woman in the IT field will take a strong work ethic, belief in not only yourself but your skill-set, and a thick skin in order to successfully break down barriers which have stood for many years. But it’s a fun and rewarding profession that more and more women are turning to every day.