For some time now we have been asking a simple question – where are the women in technology? The usual answer is…it’s being worked on. Statistics reveal women in STEM programs continue to be at low levels despite efforts to attract them to the field. Recently, during a SKYPE conversation with students at Carver High School for Engineering and Science, Bill Gates was asked “what is the most effective strategy for high schools to help foster more young women to major in computer science?” His response was that much more needs to be done to encourage young women in the sciences and particular emphasis needs to be directed at reducing the stereotypes associated with the field.
It’s an interesting situation for sure. On the one hand you have young people desperately seeking employment while on the other hand you have a field like cyber security that is begging people to apply for jobs that has salaries that average over $80,000 per year. The government has an estimated 30,000 open cyber positions and as many as 400,000 open positions currently exist in the US at this moment. The employment future looks bright with current estimates that job growth in the field will be at least double…perhaps triple the national average. Right now the field is wide open for women to start building careers that have every indication of taking off.
So…the jobs are there, the pay is great, the future looks bright…but still women avoid the STEM field. Gates is right…the nerd, geek, anti-social image of someone engaged in the sciences needs to be dispelled. In this highly social world of instant gratification and connections, image and perception are everything. We need to encourage female interest in the sciences at an early age with help from teachers, counselors and parents. We also need to model for them the highly successful women in STEM that have risen to positions of power and admiration by their peers—people such as Sherita Ceasar, who won the Women in Technology Award for 2014, newly appointed CTO of the United States, Megan Smith or Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. These successful women can encourage others to join the STEM field. But like in all fields, newly arrived people need to be encouraged and supported once in the field.
We have made some success in developing programs that encourage women to join STEM, but much more needs to be done. Today is a great day to start that movement.
We invite you to join NCI’s Initiative for Women in Cyber Security…an initiative offering skills training, identifying best practices in the field, to help understand and influence perceptions of women in the cyber security field. A dedicated group of women have joined together with NCI to raise awareness and change the image in the field to open opportunities to today’s women and to get those girls still in middle and high into the security field to build a strong cyber career.
Watch for our monthly blogs and webinars dedicated to making a difference for women in cyber security!
Student asks Bill Gates: Where are the women in technology?
Women in Tech: The Essential Winter News Review