Wanted: More women in tech
Tech is in desperate need of women. With today’s under-representation we miss out on great innovations and profits. Camilla Bjørn, Isabelle Ringnes and Louise Fuchs challenge women everywhere to take part in the ongoing revolution and pose the question – am I a user of digital products or will I define the future of products?
Technology is fueling the world and has become ingrained into every facet of our life. It is the integral backbone driving virtually every industry, with media being among the flagship industries to both tackle the challenges and embrace its opportunities head on. But it is no secret that the ones defining this revolution, to a large extent, are men. Women account for less than 20 per cent of leading tech positions at the majority of tech companies worldwide. In the world at large there is a high demand of new engineering talent. At today’s rate we are not producing nearly enough engineers to meet future demands. By 2020, the US will require one million more computer scientists than is being trained today.
Hurts the ability to grow
Everywhere, companies are struggling to hire software engineers. This hurts the ability to grow, innovate and disrupt at the pace we have become accustomed to. It denies us from the privilege of empowering people in their daily life with cutting-edge products.
If women were recruited to STEM education at the same level as men are, numbers would increase dramatically. But this is not only a matter of numbers – the industries miss out on female perspectives. There are several examples of cutting-edge technologies whose first releases fell flat due to their lack of female involvement. The first voice recognition technology could not recognize female voices. The first airbags tragically killed several women and children because they had only been tested on men. Apple’s first release of Healthkit enabled users to measure virtually every bodily function ranging from caloric intake, exercise and blood pressure, yet it failed to measure one of the most important and natural aspects of female health, namely the menstrual cycle. Needless to say; a female perspective can be the make-it or break-it component of any product release.
Without it, companies are losing out on golden opportunities to innovate in female-oriented product categories. Not only do women account for 80 per cent of consumer purchases; yet still they report to be the least satisfied customers. Women are also the dominant drivers in industries such as fashion, baby or family related products and weddings. Companies are not only lacking the potential to envision the business opportunities in these promising verticals due to the lack of female employee representation, but are also failing to predict and optimize to meet the needs of about 50 per cent of their current consumers, readers and users.
Caught in a reactive loop
If we as women can’t define the future we will be caught in a reactive loop. Technology has revolutionized the media industry for the past decade and will continue to do so exponentially moving forward. Content is still king, but technology has become the dictator and the backbone that distinguishes leaders from followers and winners from losers. It is up to each company to make the bold decisions on how to integrate new technologies into their products, always focusing on the end-user. Therefore, to be tech-savvy will be vital for women in order to attain leadership positions with real impact going forward.
Willingness to change
A career in technology does not require advanced coding skills. Technology is already an integral part of our personal and professional lives. You don’t need to spend hours crunching code to sufficiently comprehend the opportunities and limitations of technology. In fact, among the most successful female entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley only 16 per cent have technical degrees. Although technical skills are highly valued, they are not required to emerge in the field.
However, relentless curiosity, openness and willingness to change, are. This is our challenge to women. Don’t let the opportunities overwhelm you with apathy. Dare to be bold and take chances. Try to learn as much as you can along the way, and feel confident in knowing that no one knows everything. You know a lot more than you think. Fuel your passion everyday for the exciting development of new technologies, and challenge your mind to imagine how new innovations can benefit us all.
Technology brought us the Internet and all the wonderful free resources it is providing us today. Dare to exploit your network and your surroundings, and feed your brain with new perspectives, ideas and talent. Future leaders will need to understand technology in order to create change with a real impact. Leaning in essentially means learning more.
We are all new to this. The world is new to this. We are embracing these challenges together, globally, as companies and individuals. Passion for tech is your key to success.