Even though the tech industry is largely dominated by men, this has not always been the case!
On this day dedicated to women, let’s explore the main role played by women in the tech industry and discover some initiatives and projects that showcase the audacity and expertise of many women as well as encourage others to follow in their footsteps to restore balance.
Happy international women’s day!
An industry purely male dominated?
Although represented in minority today, historically, women were the first to learn how to code.
Have you ever heard of Ada Lovelace? This British Comtesse was a pioneer in computer science. She designed the first algorithm destined to be run by a machine (1984). She is considered to be ‘the mother of computer science’. Her initial mathematical concepts led to the creation of the first computers.
She was followed by other women including Grace Hopper, who created the first compiler and the COBOL programming language in the 50s and Karen Spärk Jones, a computer scientist who focused on Artificial Intelligence, specifically on Natural Language Processing: Thank you Karen for contributing to the development of Julie Desk!
Today, despite a gradual increase in the number of women in tech jobs, the imbalance is still very noticeable. In most companies, there is still a lack of diversity within their teams. This prompts the question why do companies find it difficult to feminize their workforce? But more importantly, why did women, despite being pioneers in this field, have since disappeared?
The weight of Stereotypes
Even though 57% of women are active in the job force in the US, only 26 % of women hold science or mathematical positions. More than a discrimination towards women, an aspect which should not be neglected, this is due to a lack of female candidates for tech positions.
While these fields were previously dominated by women, the development of the microcomputer in the 80s led to the appearance of gender-based stereotypes: The tech guy, the nerd, the hacker. There was also a development in certain gender-based stereotypes. Therefore, these fields became more popular among men, thus marginalizing women, who slowly started to lose interest.
Beyond the conveyed image, it must also be said that for a long time, there was no prestige and no money that came with being a programmer. But with the development of microcomputers and the boom in the tech industry, things changed. These jobs became rare and the women became less present…
A lack of recognition
As previously mentioned, discrimination is not an aspect to overlook here. There are numerous gender biases on codes written and programs developed by women. Their programs are constantly being questioned because they are judged inferior in quality compared to those of men.
This tendency is illustrated in the movie “Hidden Figures”, currently in movie theaters, which showcases three women who played an important role at Nasa during the development of the Mercury Program in 1961. These three women, namely Katherine Johnson, a mathematician, Mary Jackson, an engineer and Dorothy Vaughan, also a mathematician were initially working as ‘human calculators’ at Nasa and had a difficult time being seen otherwise, even when they had the required knowledge and skills for superior positions. This did not prevent them from becoming the firsts to learn how to program in order to use the IBM 7090 machine used to calculate the trajectory of the rocket that was to go into space.
An optimistic momentum
Although we are still far from equality, things are evolving in the right direction: several initiatives and associations are being implemented to encourage girls to develop their interest in programming, especially in college; scholarship programs are also set up to support the girls who wish to pursue their studies in computer science.
There is also an increasing number of ‘role models’ like Dr. Angelica Lim or Kishau Smith Rogers who break the stereotypes surrounding computer science and whose successes will hopefully motivate girls to turn to these sectors.
Actually, we are currently recruiting at Julie Desk, so if you wish to contribute to the development of a successful and innovative Artificial Intelligence, let us know. 😉
Feel free to send us your comments!
Happy International Women’s Day!