Why are women less likely than men to major in computer science and go into IT fields? We talked to three female developers right here at CloudBase Services to learn how they found themselves working in IT.
While they’ve had very different journeys to this office, they shared some common threads, including the perception, while they were in school, that computer science courses were a boys’ club.
“I didn’t take any computer science classes in college,” explains our jack of all trades developer, China Parenteau. Instead, China graduated about a year ago with a degree in Psychology. “The social sciences to me felt intuitive while coding felt like learning a new language.”
Similarly, developer Alicia Preston, began as a liberal arts major but ended up with a comparative religions degree.
“I thought I’d work for the State Department,” she explained. “My career has surprised me.”
Her path into a tech field stemmed from several years of working on the business side of the wine industry. She said her work had become repetitive.
“I kept dealing with the same problems,” she said. “I wanted to work in an industry where I got to learn continuously and solve new problems all the time.”
Are computer science courses missing something?
With her first Quick Base training, Alicia was hooked. She now finds development work far more stimulating and creative than she had expected, and nothing like the computer science classes she had taken in college.
“They were outdated and boring,” Alicia said of those courses. She felt they were designed to “weed out students who couldn’t get through the tedium of the beginning coursework.”
The innovation and creativity required for success in a tech field were missing from the equation.
Fellow CloudBase Services developer Danette Romero also speculated that there has been a disconnect historically between computer science courses and the skill set actually needed to thrive in tech.
She started her path by studying mechanical engineering because she loved taking things apart to find out how they worked.
The possibilities of daily tech spark the imagination for younger developers
Danette changed her major to computer science because she saw that technology seemed to be unfolding in limitless directions and was potentially improving more areas of human life than anything else she could study.
“I grew up when technology as we know it was really taking shape,” she explained. “Seeing the way technology was becoming a party of everyday life and changing the way we do everything was exciting. It was something I wanted to be a part of.”
How do we attract more women to the field?
Alicia recommends looking closely at how IT companies are recognizing and rewarding women’s accomplishments. Are women in visible leadership positions?
“Some, like Etsy and Salesforce, have made serious commitments not only to hiring women but also promoting them to leadership roles,” she explained. “That sends an important message.”
In addition to women in management, Danette added that younger woman should understand how vast the possibilities are in the field. Excelling in this work isn’t about a single skill set and the work can be dynamic and social.
She believes women are a natural fit for IT and encourages the next generation of female developers to blaze ahead—especially if they’re coming from diverse majors or non-tech industries—because IT needs their fresh perspectives.
“If you’re a problem solver,” she would say to young women, “and enjoy drawing on your own creativity and the creativity of others to build a solution, then tech offers careers you should definitely explore.”
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