Changing the way we talk about technology can bring more women into lucrative and vital computer careers.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jody Miller-Smith
When most women consider a career in technology, they think of server farms, Matrix-like code, rows of computer screens, and strange, impersonal terms like ‘agile’ and ‘scrum.’ It can feel intimidating, foreign, and unwelcoming. Imagine what would happen if the narrative was changed to a new way of thinking about a tech career, not in terms of servers and hardware, but of creativity and inspiration.
I believe one of the answers to narrowing the gender gap in technology positions is realigning the conversation.
At its core, technology can be a creative career. Things like design and development start with a vision, which is translated into digital interactions – all to build a great idea into an online reality. Coding is not only learning a new language, but being able to artistically apply this new language to many different experiences in unique ways. Programming is problem solving, putting together complex puzzles, enabling developers to find ways to fill the empty spaces to complete a vision, driving the business and customer experience.
Traditionally, women are drawn to more creative outlets that include expression and communication. Technology tends to be portrayed with cold, lifeless, complicated machines. Few women are excited at the prospect of such a linear environment. This could explain why only 27 percent of female students who participated in a recent PCW survey said they would consider a tech career, versus 67 percent of males. This early gender disparity carries on to the tech workforce. While women comprised more than half (55.86 percent) of the United States workforce in 2020, we only make up 24 percent of the computer occupations, a decline since 1990 when that figure was 32 percent. The gap is only expected to widen, despite the fact that tech careers are expected to grow at three times the rate of other occupations by 2029.
‘While women comprised more than half of the U.S. workforce in 2020, we only make up 24 percent of the computer occupations…’
A Natural Pursuit
Logic would dictate that a fast-growing, well-paying profession would be a natural pursuit for women looking to create a stable, sustainable career – but women are not considering careers in technology. As a female leader who has devoted my career to delivering solutions at the intersection of marketing, education and tech, I believe it’s far past time to attract more women into these fields.
I know a bit about this choice. At first glance, my background would not have predicted a tech-centric career. Technology was scarce in my rural Montana hometown. I did not see my first computer until I was 11 and even then, it was the only one in the school for student use. I was fortunate enough to test into a program that allowed me to learn coding and design on that singular Apple II computer, learning the Apple Logo language. This experience forever sparked my love of technology and creativity.
Fast-forward fifteen years. I had my degree in marketing and moved to Arizona to start my career. The internet was in its infancy, and to me, it was a visual communication tool never seen before. I loved the idea of every business needing a digital presence. I knew I could not be successful in this new digital landscape without understanding the technology, allowing me to push boundaries, create interactive experiences and continue to innovate. So, I went back to school at night to learn coding and design, while still working full-time. After I learned the fundamentals of web development, I worked with curriculum design companies and universities to bring digital experiences and educational content online by combining marketing and tech.
Even then, I was one of the few women building websites and pioneering what was to become “digital marketing.” I constantly found myself sitting in rooms where I was the only woman, discussing (sometimes arguing) with my male colleagues about what could and could not be done online. I found that my perspective was different enough to ensure that we pushed the boundaries of the user experience – after all, more than half of our customers and students were women.
More Robust Conversations
It is no surprise that having a diverse workforce is vital. When one group dominates a field, that group determines the design and function of the digital experience. When different perspectives come together, you have more robust conversations and discover more exciting solutions to the problems you are trying to solve. Having women in technology roles is pivotal for company growth and diversity of ideas.
I find that women bring a strong alignment to user experience; they are able to communicate the more emotive drivers of the experience through their design and user flows. They think through the data sets and create inclusive architecture design, an approach that is both quantitative and qualitative. For technology roles like software engineering, data science, or cybersecurity, or any other tech field, the combination of both logic and emotion can be powerful drivers in the success of the customer experience.
In my current role as senior vice president of marketing, my diverse team of experienced women and men strive to create a more collaborative experience for our users and encourage women to consider a “creative” technology career through our apprenticeships and Powered by Woz U technology curriculum.
Women are a force in the marketplace and the workplace. By becoming more of a presence in technology fields, we can help build products and services that are both functional and creative, creating a more inclusive and productive future. Women use technology as much as men, so why not message coding as a language, a creative outlet or a passion project? Technology is a career inclusive enough to be all those things and more.
Jody Miller-Smith is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Woz U, an Education-as-a-Service company. Jody has dedicated her career to improving the student experience mapping and leading marketing efforts for educational institutions across all areas of the discipline, including strategic brand management, digital marketing, CRM, advertising and media, e-commerce, and research/insights. Write to: [email protected]