Women are making meaningful headway in the field of software engineering. Read on to learn more about the challenges women are overcoming and the opportunities that are helping close the gender gap.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
It’s no secret that STEM professions—shaped by years of gender and racial bias—lack diversity. Software engineering is no exception. Women currently hold around 25% of all computer science-related jobs, and only 14% of software engineering roles, with many female programmers having to work against unfair stereotypes of women not being technical-minded or uninterested in coding. The irony, of course, is that the pioneers of computer science were women—Ada Lovelace is considered the first computer programmer; Grace Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer; Ida Rhodes and Betty Holberton designed the C-10 programming language; Margaret Hamilton helped developed the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo program. In other words, women have always had what it takes to make profound advancements in computer science and software engineering.
Leaders in the tech industry, who in recent years have awoken to the value that women bring to the workforce, have made it their mission to diversify their hires and teams, overhaul toxic cultures, and prevent attrition. Many women software engineers have also taken matters into their own hands, creating opportunities and support networks for women who are either considering or have already embarked on their technology careers, supporting young women through mentorships, and clearing some of the hurdles that stand in the way of women advancing in the technical workforce.
Many of the challenges that stand in the way of women building long and satisfying careers in software engineering are systemic and have proven difficult for organizations to dismantle. The good news is that many companies, industry leaders, and women have stepped up to the challenge and are making a meaningful difference.
Every facet of software engineering, whether it’s engineering management, front-end development, back-end development, dev ops, or cybersecurity engineering, benefits from diversity at all levels. Recognizing some of the barriers to entry that can deter women from careers in the profession or discourage them from climbing the ranks, software engineering leaders have launched conferences and initiatives to support women from the time they’re in school through to when they’re in the workforce.
Some of the more notable conferences, organizations, meetups, and networking opportunities include:
A growing number of organizations have thrown their support behind helping tech companies achieve gender diversity, namely through offering scholarships, fellowships, grants, and outreach programs. Software engineering scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing computer science, computer programming, web development, or related fields, and there are also paid internship programs that aim to give students from historically underrepresented groups hands-on industry experience.
On the online courses/bootcamp front, Springboard has partnered with Women Who Code to offer ten scholarships worth $1,000 each to women who enroll in Springboard’s Data Science Career Track, Software Engineering Career Track, or the Machine Learning Career Track.
Springboard also offers a number of women-in-tech scholarships.
Students who have completed Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track have gone on to work as engineering professionals at companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, Pandora, and Dell. Many graduates of the program credit Springboard’s three-pronged approach to their success:
“I really enjoyed Springboard, from the mentorship, career counselors, curriculum, and the projects,” said Springboard graduate Jasmine Kyung, who is now a Python engineer. “I enjoyed the freedom to pick whatever project I wanted to do and the support I received from my mentors, who helped me find a job even before I finished the program.”
Despite the poor diversity numbers in the field of software engineering, women occupy some of the most influential and pioneering roles in the profession. A few industry leaders include:
“Every software engineer struggles a lot, even if they don’t show it,” Anna Carey, a software engineer at Artsy said in a blog post. “If I could shake my 18-year-old self, full of self-doubt and about to give up on computer science for what she thought would be forever, I would tell her: You have everything you need to make it as an engineer if you’re ready to persist when you feel lost and become really good at Google.”
And if a prospective software engineer is concerned that they might not be cut out for the profession because their strengths lie in the humanities, Carey added: “Your communication skills and leaning toward the humanities don’t discount you as a developer, but actually make you a stronger engineer.”
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