Barbie has embarked on her 125th career, as a computer engineer, and Microsoft has launched Digigirlz, which offers high-tech camps for middle and high school girls as well as free online HTML/ web development courses. The message: Computing is for females, too. The goal: In the future, software development and other related computer fields will be more gender-balanced.
A recent Forbes Magazine survey found that Women Software Developers earned nearly equivalent salaries to those of their male counterparts.
But what if you’re considering the field, and you’re already 18… or 38? How does it feel to enter a field that is predominately male? What organizations should you join, and where should you seek employment? Here’s a look at the current status of the software development profession, as well as some of the more promising recent developments.
You think there are more Obstacle than Opportunity?
Why the self-imposed roadblock? it’s about the image you
If software development programs only lure those who self-identify as having more boyish interests, they’re missing out on a lot of talent. This was the same in the engineering field, where we have a few girls because of the notion about the course. Then, in Nigerian universities when you see a beautiful girl in the civil/mechanical department you are just flabbergasted, the same experience the girls are facing in software development.
Industry leaders understand that females can not only achieve but enjoy the profession if they’re lured in at a young age and shown that the career is not at odds with their image. That’s the premise behind the Microsoft Digigirlz website. The feminine look and feel of the website does not reflect different expectations.
Microsoft encourages females to apply for academically rigorous internships. The Microsoft Research website includes reflections by a young lady who started out in DigiGirlz and went on to work on speech-enabled “help software” — while still in high school.
Practical Concerns and Software development lifestyle
It’s not all about role models and societal views. There are also practical concerns. In a 2005 paper “Inclusion, Diversity, and Gender Equality”, Yuwei Lin cites multiple obstacles including gendered software and long work hours. Software development has traditionally been a more than forty hour a week profession, and females may have more competing roles that make it difficult for them to put in the time.
Some companies are working hard to bring diversity into the profession. Flexible scheduling is among the tools. Microsoft is again among the leaders. New mothers are eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave. (Fathers and adoptive parents may be eligible for four.) There are also work-from-home and job share opportunities.
Diversity is everything that makes us unique. elitePath provides equal employment and affirmative action opportunities to students, applicants and employees without regard to ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, marital status, or age. And we, as a company, want nothing more than to ensure that every individual, every member of our team, feels like they belong here and that each of us appreciates and values all our colleagues’ uniqueness and creativity.
Salary is another bright spot for women in the profession. While women represent only about a fifth of the workforce, their earnings are nearly equal.