The History and Future of Women in Web Design and Technology
We’ve come a long way from the days of Ada Lovelace, who is considered to be the first woman programme, to modern women like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg. Women are heading and making decisions in tech companies, which were considered to be a male bastion for decades. Even though the numbers are not that encouraging, it’s increased gradually over the years. Almost a quarter of the computing workforce now consists of women.
According to a recent research conducted by Accenture and “Girls Who Code” a nonprofit group, if nothing is done to encourage more women to take up computer education, then the percentage of women in computing might dip to 22% by 2025.
Even though less than a quarter of the current computing workforce consists of women; historically women have always been associated with mathematics and computing. In mid-1800’s Ada Lovelace wrote what is now considered the first computer program for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine.
During the World War II era, women were recruited for performing ballistic calculations and also program computers. Many women also worked as codebreakers during this period. Joan Clark was one of the best-known cryptanalysts who broke the “Enigma Code” with Alan Tuning. Grace Hopper contributed to computing during the war when she programmed Harvard Mark I and also created COBOL that revolutionized business computing after the WWII. Another significant achievement was the development of the assembly language for ARC2 which was written by Kathleen Booth.
In the aftermath of the world war era, more women had access to quality education, but most men were encouraged to take up science and computing subjects. Often women were not keen on taking up these subjects as they were considered for solitary work.
There are many misconceptions about computing, and one of the common ones being it involves long days of monotonous tasks. Most people presume that computing professionals don’t have a social life. That they write thousands of lines of codes that make no sense and spend long hours in front of the computer.
According to a survey of over 8000 people composed of parents, students, computer professionals and teachers, the gender gap in computing-related fields is widening. The percentage has continued to go down since 1995 when it was 37% to less than 25% now. The trends are on the decline even in schools.
Only 20% of people who take advanced placement computer science exams are females. Though almost the same numbers of women graduate high school as men; more boys are likely to pursue science and engineering degrees than girls.
This has seen a dramatic shift as women seeking careers in computing have halved since 1984. This could be attributed to the lack of female role models in the area of computing during this time. With the emergence of idols like Marissa Mayer, who was employee number 20 for Google, and coded and designed their search engine offering.More women will find it inspired to take on roles in computing and science.
The internet marketing and search engine optimization space have also seen a lot of women embracing and making their mark in the field. From Anne Cushing of Annielytics, Ann Handley the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and Alex Hisaka, Head of Content Marketing at Linkedin. They have all spoken openly about being passionate about their fields.
Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, has been the first woman to take up leadership positions at various organizations like IBM, University of British Columbia and Princeton. She agrees that women go through a lot of struggle in male-dominated fields, but careers in computing can be well paying and also offer you a greater work-life balance. As the president of Harvey Mudd, she has been working to make computer science education field more exciting for women.
Making classes interactive, involving people in team-based projects, and encouragement has started showing positive results at the college. But she agrees that there’s a long way to go. According to the NSF, computer science out of all the STEM fields has the lowest number of women undergraduates at about 14% as of 2014.
The world of computer science will gain a lot from diversity. Making it exciting and breaking the stereotype mindsets can help attract talent to all genders and races.
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