April 21, 2024

Women run the (tech) world!

3 min read

Modern technology is marred by a marked shortage of women in the field. As per data by the Women in Tech organisation, women make up only 23% of tech workers in South Africa. Thus, innovation and technology for gender equality is crucial, given the integral role of women in shaping the digital age.

Consider the early days of computer science: Acclaimed computer scientist Rear Admiral Grace Hopper invented an early programming language called COBOL; Adele Goldberg laid the groundwork for modern graphical user interfaces that allow users to interact with computers and smartphones through icons; and Karen Sparck-Jones developed inverse document frequency, which evaluates how important a word is to a document and is still used today by web search engines.

Women look at the world differently. They approach problems with unique viewpoints and ideas, and often find solutions that no one considered previously. The world and tech will be better off with greater balance and access to a wider range of skills, attitudes and mindsets. 

The most important step to getting more women into technology is to inspire and motivate them from a young age. As such, the many women at Nerdware (a proudly black, female owned and 78% female-run full-stack digital marketing agency) believe there are three key steps we can all take to fan the flame among girls:

  1. As influential women in tech, make an effort to inspire the next generation.

In a survey conducted last year, 22.5% of women said they originally pursued technology as a career because they had a positive role model at some point, whereas the majority, 72.5%, said it was because they simply had an interest in the field. Interestingly, more than half of respondents believe the industry needs more female role models.

When you’re young, the grown-up world can feel monstrously imposing, but simultaneously filled with possibility. This makes it exceptionally difficult to decide on which dreams to pursue. 

Some women in the tech industry wouldn’t be in the position that they are in today if someone didn’t take a chance and care enough to motivate them to pursue a career in technology. That is what the world needs: selfless industry leaders who are willing to mentor to as large a portion of the youth as possible.

  1. As parents, facilitate and motivate learning about tech from a young age.

Parents have a responsibility to guide their children, introduce them to a wide range of experiences, and help them discover new interests.

The key is not to pressure them into anything, but to show support as they explore. Then, react enthusiastically when they share their discoveries, encourage their curiosity, and support their passions and interests.

Young girls look up to their parents, older siblings, and aunts and uncles, and take what they say to heart. Adults must be very careful in how they phrase certain things and try to avoid any negativity. Being encouraging about technology will instil in them a love from a young age for what could be a prosperous career.

  1. Provide children with opportunities to experience the tech industry.

While it’s important to talk to young girls about technology and discuss the many opportunities available to them, it’s crucial to let them experience it for themselves.

This experience does not necessarily mean visiting tech firms. Introducing girls to inspirational female leaders in tech, having them read articles or watch videos about new developments, and taking them to industry talks by women can also help to fan the flame.

We live in the age of information. There are too many resources out there to count, which means it is easier than ever to show young girls what the tech world is all about. The more information they take in, and the more they see other women reaching new heights in the field, the more they will want to do it themselves one day.

A small act of kindness is often all it takes to change someone’s life. Taking a moment to talk to girls about technology may be exactly what’s needed to close the industry’s growing gender gap.

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