Closing the Gender Gap: Empowering Girls to Pursue Careers in Tech

Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a day set aside to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness about women's equality, and lobby for accelerated gender parity. The theme for 2021 is “Choose to challenge”. At Certiport, we’re choosing to challenge the gender gap for women in technology.

According to the European Union’s Women in Digital scoreboard, European women today are still less likely to have digital skills and work in technological fields. Only 18% of IT specialists in the European Union are women. The gap is similarly jarring in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25% of computer and mathematical occupations in the U.S. are held by women, with some job titles, such as computer network architects, going as low as 9%.

There are many reasons why this gender disparity exists, and true and lasting change will require participation across society. Today, we want to give teachers practical takeaways for their classroom. Find out how you can challenge the status quo and inspire female students to pursue careers in technology.

Be Aware of Social Norms and Expectations

A traditional classroom setting is not necessarily created to empower female students to succeed. Dr. Alecia Carter and her team at the University of Cambridge conducted research on the likelihood of women to participate in academic seminars. According to their findings, men were more than 2.5 times more likely to ask questions than women.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, highlights a similar experience in her book, Lean In. After presenting at a seminar about gender issues, Sandberg offered to answer questions from attendees. Near the end of her time, she said she could take two more questions. All female attendees lowered their hands, while male attendees left their hands raised. Sheryl ended up answering more than the two promised questions, and all the questions were asked by men.

Sandberg reflects on this experience, “Even though I was giving a speech on gender issues, I had been blind to one myself. If we want a world with greater equality, we need to acknowledge that women are less likely to keep their hands up. We need institutions and individuals to notice and correct for this behavior by encouraging, promoting, and championing more women.”

As an educator, you can champion the female students in your classroom. Encourage them to lead. Encourage them to participate. Encourage them to raise their hands and ask questions. Challenge the status quo.

Help Female Students Shadow Women Technologists

Although technology pervades every aspect of our daily life, many students think of computer scientists and technologists as geeky, awkward nerds who sit in a cubicle and code all day long. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Farzana Ashraf, Pearson VUE’s Chief Products & Technology Officer, is working hard to break down that stereotype with girls in Twin Cities metropolitan areas. Farzana has been working with six school districts in Minnesota, meeting with high school girls to share what a career in technology looks like for women. This is her fifth year, and the data is clear. Girls who attend her session are more likely to register for STEM related electives in the following semester.

This doesn’t need to be an isolated statistic within Pearson VUE. Help your female students shadow female technologists in your area. Bring these women into the classroom or bring the students into their workplace. Helping girls see powerful, intelligent, and successful women in technological fields helps increase girls’ persistence in technology. Furthermore, these women can demonstrate the many types of positions and opportunities available in technology and provide valuable advice and mentorship in the future.

Help Female Students Earn Industry-Recognized Technology Credentials

Mentoring and networking benefits are amplified when students have the hard skills needed for future success. According to a study by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, “the best predictor of women’s persistence [in computing fields] is access to early computing and programming opportunities.” If we want more women in technological fields, we need to expose girls to technology and coding skills at earlier ages.

One of the most powerful ways to validate the skills these girls earn in school is through an industry-recognized certification. Certiport offers a full portfolio of industry recognized technology certifications, including the Microsoft Certified Fundamentals program, which validates IT skills such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence. Certifications are incredibly valuable, especially in today’s skill-based economy. IT professionals with certifications have an average salary of $111,334, 7% more than non-certified professionals. You can learn more about the value of certifications here.

Tomorrow’s technology leaders are in your classroom today. Give them the skills they need to succeed, and the power to close the gender technology gap.