Women in Tech: Getting Women involved
Stuart Sumner London 03.04.18
While around 74% of women express a desire to study a STEM field at some point, this number
decreases the older the women surveyed get. In the UK, less than one tenth of Computer Science
students are female. 1 In my Informatics department at University, there around 270 male students in
my year and around 35 women. These statistics are even more worrying when looking at the skills
shortage within technical roles. According to an Accenture survey, in 2015 “there were 500,000 new
computing jobs to be filled but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates”. 2
The greatest ratio gap seems to lie in Computer Science. Originally, the subject was considered a
women’s role with most typists being women. Computers were even advertised with women using
them to show businesses that they were easy to use and required only low skilled operators.
According to Hicks who wrote the book, ‘Programmed Inequality’, in WW2, jobs such as operating
computers, gathering data and cracking codes were viewed as, “unskilled, highly feminised work”
with women seen as, “an easy, tractable labour force for jobs that were critical and yet
simultaneously devalued.” As people started to see the value in technology, the view of it as
women’s work quickly changed. Women were phased out and men were given similar jobs with
higher pay. 3
Unfortunately, the view of computers as a boy’s toy persists. Women face an unwelcoming
environment in many online circles. From the online abuse and degradation rampant in gaming to
casual harassment on social media. With the consistent increase in demand for technically skilled
workers it is imperative to make tech welcoming for women. The wide-ranging sources of the
problem are often over looked. Simply increasing quotas for companies to hire women doesn’t help
if there are still so few studying the subject that could facilitate them to apply to technical roles.
Thus, the problem needs to be addressed far earlier. Female students face constant questioning in
their abilities. Even one of my teachers paused a programming a lesson to double check if I,
specifically, understood the content as he, “understands women don’t have as logical minds”. I am
constantly being told my degree is easier for me because apparently anyone will help a girl if they
ask. The way we talk to women in the degree needs to change and the opportunity to learn coding
needs to be available at every stage in education. It needs to be emphasised how easy it is to start,
and the toxic environment of testing women to see if they’re interested enough in tech to be
studying it or just pretending needs to end.
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