According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer jobs are expected to grow 13 percent over the next 10 years, with a median income of almost $80,000.
These numbers exceed all other sectors, with the exception of healthcare.
This is great news for a U.S. economy still emerging cautiously from the Great Recession. Unfortunately, many women are unprepared to take advantage of these new opportunities in the tech space.
Though women currently earn 58 percent of all bachelors degrees, they hold only 26 percent of the nation’s 1.4 million technology jobs—a number that has actually declined since the 1980s. Nearly 30 percent of employees across influential U.S. technology companies—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Intel—are women. However, when you take out salespeople, service workers and communications professionals the numbers get much starker. At Facebook, only 16 percent of technical workers are women. At Twitter, it’s 10 percent.
To be fair, most of these companies see the problem. Failing to engage women in the development process can have disastrous effects, especially since they remain the primary purchasers in U.S. households.
So, if tech companies want to hire women, and women in technology earn 30 percent more than they do in other industries, why are women not pursuing careers as software engineers in record numbers?
One answer is the lack of female role models and mentors in computer science. Research suggests that the presence of female peers, female teaching assistants and female faculty increases retention in STEM majors. On the flipside, women often cite the absence of female mentors as a reason for leaving fields like physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and computer science.
Here in Cleveland, software engineer Mel McGee is trying to do something about this problem. Mel wrote her first computer program when she was 10 (a scroll of her name running continuously across the screen). However, In spite of this early love, she followed the path of most undergraduate women and pursued a degree in liberal arts.
“Computer Science classes were filled with white men and taught by white men and women didn’t feel invited to the party,” she said. “There were no female peers or female advisors encouraging me.
It wasn’t until I graduated and realized that I was highly educated but significantly undervalued and poorly paid that I finally went back to school and pursued graduate studies in Computer Science.”
In 2013, Mel founded We Can Code IT, which offers full-time and part-time coding bootcamps intended to bridge the diversity gap in high tech. The venture is intended to give the next generation of female coders something she didn’t have – a strong support network.
“It’s so important to have female role models to help encourage more women to consider computer science as a career path,” said McGee. “Our instructors are not only top software professionals; they are as diverse as our students.”
A major reason for the success of coding bootcamps like We Can Code IT, is that their long-term financial benefits are obvious. On average, female coding bootcamp graduates see a 57 percent increase in salary compared to their previous jobs. Some have seen an increase of 300 percent. And their employers benefit as well. Tech companies with women in management report a 34 percent higher return of investment compared to their peers.
We still have a long way to go in the effort of overcome barriers for women in computer science. However, collaborative bootcamps like We Can Code IT are making significant strides in launching more women into careers in technology. That’s great news for women, not to mention the tech industry, and the U.S economy.
To learn more about how We Can Code IT is bridging the gap in diversity in technology, visit www.wecancodeit.org.