The Growing Influence of Women in Technology

  • Categories:

    Digital, Inspiration

  • Date:

    September 12, 2018

The Growing Influence of Women in Technology

Digital, Inspiration

Let’s start with something we all know: there are fewer women than men working in development and technology roles, within and outside the marketing industry. In fact, in 2017 women held about 26 percent of computer and mathematical positions in the United States — a slight drop from 1960 (Bloomberg).

Katie Palermo, digital production coordinator at Wray Ward, is working to help change that. I sat down with Katie to learn more about her passion for empowering women, her own experience in the digital world and how the future may look for her and others interested in a technology career.

Historically, women have been underrepresented in technology and related fields. What’s been holding us back?

KP: Part of it starts with popular culture and the stories we see in the media, even from a young age. I’ve always heard about people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but it isn’t as easy to find female role models in technology. Especially for young girls and teens, a lack of female role models in a certain field can discourage us from taking that route. It’s too easy to think, “There’s not a home for me in that space.”

Societal gender norms factor into the equation, too. Lots of girls grow up dreaming about getting married and having children — personal life events — while boys are more likely to think about their future career or the car they’ll drive. It’s so important to encourage all kids to dream outside the box. It’s okay for girls to dream about what they want to do when they grow up, just like it’s okay for boys to dream about having a family.

The good news is that women are growing their influence in technology jobs. What’s driving this positive change?

KP: We have to start inspiring girls when they’re still young. That’s why I love programs like Girl Scouts of America, which expanded merit badges to things like digital design and video game development. A group called Girls Who Code offers afterschool and summer classes for girls in elementary, middle and high school. Strong women are taking an important step by empowering younger women to get involved in this space at a younger age.

This growing network gives other hopefuls a network of like-minded females. It says to girls who are interested in a technology career, “You’re not weird for wanting to know how to code a video game.”

In general, the growth of digital is making more space for women. And workshops, many of them free or low-cost, are forming to help women realize their potential. Girl Develop It educates adult women interested in web and software development careers. Wray Ward has hosted Girl Develop It workshops, and I’ve loved connecting with these strong, smart women.

Meanwhile, I try to do my part by inspiring young girls and others to think outside the box. I encouraged my niece to take tech electives in school. I bought my goddaughter a coding game for Christmas last year, and I sat down and did it with her. She’s only 9, and I love to think that she could learn how to build websites before she finishes high school.

You’re learning to code on the side. What inspired you to take that step?

KP: Not long after I came to Wray Ward, my coworker, Justin, hosted a group called Modern Devs Charlotte, and I observed some of their classes. Right away, I knew two things: the attendees were 99 percent men, and technically speaking, they were way over my head.

But I stuck with it, and slowly, I started to get a better handle on the stuff they covered in these classes. Our developers also sent me lots of great resources for learning on my own. Then, I took my first Girl Develop It class, on React (a type of JavaScript library). In hindsight, it may not have been the best place to start, because React is a fairly advanced topic. But the woman next to me sacrificed some of her experience to help encourage and guide me. That really gave me the courage I needed to keep going, and I won’t forget it.

Now, I’m helping organize more Girl Develop It events. I love that Wray Ward’s digital team, which is mostly male, is providing space to these women. And I’ve loved connecting with others who are committed to accomplishing goals and furthering their careers.

What’s next for women in technology?

KP: We have more work to do, but the gender gap is shrinking. I’d love to see schools put more of an emphasis on coding and computer skills — for girls and boys. Just imagine what would happen if we challenged kids to build their own website.

The sky’s the limit. As long as women support each other, as long as we have groups like Girl Develop It and Girls Who Code, and as long as we have welcoming environments like the team at Wray Ward, there’s no stopping us. I’m excited for the chance to keep working with women and men who are passionate about growing their knowledge and who are hungry about creating something amazing together.

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