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Talk Nerdy to Me: Why Women in Tech Are Hot


Is the tech industry embracing its feminine side at last? The recent emergence of tech-savvy female leaders like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! encourages more young women to pursue careers within the largely male-dominated field. Jobs in the tech industry are in high demand, yield promising salaries, and have been proven to be recession-proof — or, at least, recession-resistant. Still not convinced that a tech major or career path is for you? Let’s take a look at the statistics and see what the experts have to say about being a female in the tech industry.

Better for the bottom line: According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology Scorecard, “Technology companies with the highest representation of women in their senior management teams showed a higher return on equity than did those with fewer or no women in senior management.”

Recession proof: In the post-dotcom era and through the economic downturn, many technology industries showed profits:

– Aerospace and defense

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– Computers and office equipment

– Information technology services

– Internet services and retail

– Network and communications equipment

– Telecommunications

The National Center for Women & Information Technology Scorecard further states, “With 1.4 million computing-related jobs expected to be added by 2018, encouraging women to pursue careers in computing may make the difference in filling jobs in this strong sector of the U.S. economy.” The demand for tech jobs isn’t dying down anytime soon, so now is a great time for women (and men, for that matter) to pursue careers in this steady and promising field.

High profitability: The NCWIT Scorecard also reveals that next to bachelor’s degrees in engineering, “degrees in computer science and computer engineering yield two of the highest starting salaries for new graduates.” According to the 2012 – 2013 PayScale College Salary Report, tech degrees ranked amongst the degrees with the highest salary potential:

Ranked #7 – Computer Engineering

Starting salary = $62,700

Mid-career salary = $105,000

Ranked #9 – Computer Science

Starting salary = $58,400

Mid-career salary = $100,000

The numbers and statistics don’t lie. A career in technology is not only secure, but it’s also lucrative. Let’s take a look at what some of the women in the Quora community have to say about pursuing a career in the tech industry.

Advice from the Quora Community

When the following question was posed on Quora, females from the tech industry weighed in with their words of wisdom for the younger generation of tech ladies:

What advice would seasoned women in tech give to younger girls deciding to make a tech career for themselves?

Nora Mullaney, a software engineer at Facebook, stated that, “Sadly, you will likely run into some sexism. Don’t let it get you down. One of the nice things about (software) engineering is that you can usually prove an idea is better by building it. Don’t be afraid to ignore nay-sayers and just go for it.”

One of the more logical pieces of advice comes from a self-proclaimed seasoned “network geek” named Jill Smith, who stated that, “Geeks almost never look at gender when they’re being exclusionary, it’s almost entirely a case of ‘can you talk the talk and not sound like an idiot.'” In other words, actions speak louder than words.

Lastly, Rachel Fong, a computer science graduate from MIT, puts it quite simply, “Don’t think of yourself as a female engineer. Think of yourself as an engineer. And then, you know, do engineer stuff.”

Too often women see themselves as their gender instead of their abilities, which sets them up for failure rather than success. Although the stigma of being a woman in the workforce has died down significantly since the bra-burning days, females still feel the need to “prove themselves” as equals in their professions. Instead of viewing your gender, race, age, or religion as a factor of whether you will succeed in your career or not, focus on your tenacity, abilities, qualifications, and character first.

What the Leading Ladies of Tech Have to Say

Susan Wojcicki (SVP of Google Ads):“Today, most young women are exposed to technology at a very young age, with mobile phones, tablets, the web, or social media. They are much more proficient with technology than prior generations since they use it for all their school work, communication and entertainment.

“Though we do need more women to graduate with technical degrees, I always like to remind women that you don’t need to have science or technology degrees to build a career in tech.”

Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!): “Right now, it’s a really great time to be a woman in technology — but (unfortunately) there aren’t enough women in technology.”

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and Author of “Lean In”): “I think the most important advice for girls or women who want to consider a career in tech is really the same advice for all women and girls anywhere — that the key thing is to believe in your own abilities. Studies show that women often underestimate their own abilities, which holds them back from taking on the challenges that help any of us achieve to our potential. Stereotype threat — the phenomenon that if people are aware of a stereotype they are more likely to act in accordance with it — is a real issue for girls in science, math, and technology. Girls don’t think they can do well, and therefore they don’t. (This is why girls often do better in these subjects at all-girls schools.) If women believe they can succeed in tech, they will. And so many amazing technical leaders already do.” (Answer to aforementioned Quora question.)

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have anything to add? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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(Photo Credit: Mobile Edge Laptop Bags/Flikr)

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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