Purely based on statistics, it is incredibly clear that there is a diversity deficit in the technology industry, and in the engineering industry as well. I have read Eileen Pollack’s article from The New York Times before, which became evident when I read, “Figuring out why people who choose not to do something don’t in fact do it is like attempting to interview the elves who live inside your refrigerator but come out only when the light is off,” a line that is far too clever to forget. What struck me about the article both times was the data and studies that support the idea that cultural stereotypes have had a big influence on women not joining the tech industry.
I am not a computer science major and, while this choice was not necessarily made because I was intimidated by the highly skewed male to female ratio in the field, it is something that definitely entered my mind. Choosing engineering in general presents this issue right off the bat. Mechanical engineering has a slightly better the ratio than computer science, but I would venture to guess that the reasons behind this disparity are similar.
One of the big issues that I personally see that faces both women and minorities entering either the tech or engineering industries is that there are not enough role models to look up to. I have only had two female engineering professors during my time here, neither of whom are still teaching at ND for various reasons, which is in itself discouraging. It is also a trend of the “older” generation not to be as helpful to the younger generation of women as they try to make it in male-dominated fields. This is not true of every successful woman, but often there is a mindset of “I made it on my own, they should be able to as well” that can prevent mentorship.
This will, hopefully, change as the women in my generation start becoming the mentors. We have been lucky to be in high school and college as the major STEM initiatives have been applied in full force. With this support, perhaps the harsh feelings of some of the women who have had to fight to be included in the tech industry before us will not prevent us from helping the younger generation enter the field.
I’m not sure that the amount of women in the tech industry and in STEM fields, in general, will ever match the amount of men in those industries. Although it pains me to say this, I think that some professions will always be male-dominated, and the tech and engineering industries are two of them. This is not to say that ratio of men to women in these industries will not get a lot better in the decades to come.
In the effort to get more women in tech fields, I worry that there will be a sort of pressure put on young women to feel that they should want to be in a STEM field. It’s not for everyone, and no one should do something just to prove a point, especially when that thing takes a lot of hard work– hard work that is only truly worth it if you love what you are doing. Instead, I think there should be pressure put on the industry and on educators to eradicate any stereotypes in the computer science and engineering disciplines in order to make them more inviting to those who do not fit the archetype of a coder or engineer.