Soapbox · Women In Technology

Women In Technology – Creating the Pipeline of Candidates

Allow me to explain why we need to start in pre-K, as soon as girls start in the school system. If the foundations don’t get laid very early on, the rest of the sequence just won’t happen because it won’t be able to happen. The conditions for it simply will not exist.

The biggest problem with attempting to hire women in technology is the dearth of women in technology.


I wanted to take a moment to about something that’s near and dear to me – getting more women into technology. It’s going to be decades in developing the pipeline of female technology talent. Here’s why. 8 years on average for a PhD. 2 years for a masters. 5 for an undergraduate degree. That’s 15 years right there but in order to tempt someone to devote 15 years of their life and an extensive amount of financial resources to something, you first have to interest them in that thing. I don’t mean a passing interest but a burning, consuming passion. Anything short of that just won’t do. Doing that means that a lot of things need to change radically.

Let’s work backward on what it will take to get more women into technology. To quote a singer, “the nitty and the gritty”. The PhD is connected to Masters. The Masters to connected to the Undergrad. College admissions needs to change. Undergraduate admissions needs to figure out how to balance GPA vs course work. It’s easy to be the 4.0 valedictorian when all you took was pre-algebra and composition and physical education. It’s a lot harder to get a scholarship when your GPA is 3.4 because you took college level biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, French, and English your senior year.

How do you get to the point of taking college level courses because you basically finished high school? That’s simple. It means upping the game on high school curriculum on a national scale. More math and science need to be required subjects. (Financial literacy, anyone?) More schools need to offer geometry, trigonometry, calculus and other advanced math courses to prepare them for the college curriculum that they’ll need to get that undergrad. They’ll also need the hard science courses to prepare them for that undergrad – classes like chemistry and physics and it will need to be socially acceptable for them to be in those classes.

Still working backward on what it will take to get women into tech, we go from high school to middle school. How do we lay the foundations for success with a challenging high school curriculum? Well, those changes all start in middle school. It means creating social conditions in middle school where its OK to be female and smart. Actually, it needs to be ok to be smart in middle school for everyone, but that’s another set of articles, which I’ll write one of these days but speaking from personal experience, its worse when you are female.

This is the part where schools start prepping them with math and science like basic biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra concepts. Experiments may need to be run to see if segregating the genders for math and science classes helps. Other experiments may need to be run on teaching methods and reshaping the curriculum to make it more appealing. For example emphasizing how biology and chemistry relate to environmental issues might make those topics more appealing for anyone interested in the environment. They experimented on me with “new math” and as a result, I have some gaps in my math skills that I’ve turned to Khan Academy to remedy. My point is that if they can try new math which was already discredited when it was implemented in my school, they can try a few things to see if there is way to fix the gender gap in tech which also serves to help with the pay gap between men and women but that’s yet another article I need to sit and write so let’s stay on topic.

Now the challenge is how to prepare the students for a more advanced curriculum in middle school. That means fixing elementary schools. Elementary schools were never meant to be places to warehouse children which seems to be what they are these days. We need to bring art and music back into schools so that students can learn about the relationships between math and music or math and art. Leonardo’s golden ration and the pentatonic scale spring immediately to mind but there are plenty of others.

It means reaching into the elementary schools and correcting the gender bias against math and sciences that starts as early as first grade where math and science “isn’t for girls” or “that’s not ladylike”. That’s just another way of saying “Don’t worry your pretty little head over those hard things”. If you know any reasonably intelligent independent women, saying “Don’t worry your pretty little head ” may result in physical harm now that they’re adults but at the age of 6, you’ll probably get away with it. When you finally figure out it is for you, its too late because the work is too much catch up with the rest of the pack.

If the foundations don’t get laid here, the rest of the sequence just won’t happen because it won’t be able to happen. The conditions for it simply will not exist.

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