It’s a common picture that spans all states and countries: the lone girl in an AP physics class or advanced engineering BS program at a university who is desperately trying to prove herself among a sea of male students.
Or, for those of us that have graduated to the real world: the one girl in a large tech company that is desperately trying to prove that she deserves to be the next CTO of the company. (After all, how many women CTOs do you know?)
Sadly, whether we want to admit it or not, these pictures have become more and more common despite women out-enrolling men when it comes to college and the fact that women outperform men when it comes to becoming gainfully employed. The stats reveal that less than a quarter of the high-tech jobs are held by women, according to a FINS.com analysis of Labor Department data. Moreover, the percentage of undergraduate degrees in computer science awarded to women has been declining since 1984. In 2009, it was only 18 percent, reports the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
What do these figures tell us? That women still need to take great leaps forward to shatter the glass ceiling when it comes to technology.
Last year at ITEXPO West 2011, the world’ largest communications conference, I was presented the wonderful opportunity to attend an inaugural networking and educational event called “Women in Telecom and Tech Breakfast” – a conference that had the simple goal of uniting women in the technology and telecom sectors.
Spearheaded by Suzanne Bowen, vice president of business development and marketing for AstraCom, and Ruth Bridger, vice president of marketing Xorcom, the breakfast brought together dozens of women from all over the globe in various technology sects. And let me tell you that what the women had to say to me about their place in the tech world was fascinating.
“It’s a good old boys’ club sometimes,” Melony White, channel director at VAR Dynamics, a provider of private-labeled enterprise class SaaS, told me at the time. “Coming in, I have met some wonderful women in technology but on a daily basis I am pretty much the only woman in the office. It’s nice to collaborate with other women who are likeminded. We bring different perspectives as well and probably on a softer side but also we bring a lot of smart s to this business and we are breaking through.”
For those of you out there who missed the chance to attend this educational lecture, Bowen and her team are gearing up again to hold the event at ITEXPO East 2012, taking place in Miami, Fla., from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. The year’s event, called “Women in Wireless and Telecom Breakfast at 4GWE and ITEXPO,” will take place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. EST Feb. 2.
“Share the power and motivation of being successful women in the wireless and telecommunications industries with breakfast and short success story talks by each * sponsor at 4GWE (4G Wireless Evolution and ITEXPO East),” Bowen wrote of this year’s event.
For some of you out there, you might feel forced to defend yourself against those know-it-all boys in your class who make you feel out of place in your male dominated lectures. But for others of you, you might not even be considering a career in tech because you have no role models in your life in that space.
But just remember that women all over the world are helping pave the way for you once you graduate with events like these. Stick by your majors and class decisions as a supportive network of strong women awaits you when you enter the tech sector.
I know where I will be at 8 a.m. Feb. 2. Will you be joining me?