Last month at the SelectUSA Investment Summit, Google’s Eric Schmidt posed the question:
There’s something about the tech culture, the way we approach it, the incentives, that is driving women away…. Why are they not in tech?”
While it’s interesting to wonder why such a gender gap exists in the STEM world, the much more important question to answer is: “Why should more women be in technology?”
Hiring women is good for business
Employing women at a tech company presents many benefits. Among these is the simple fact that having women in your workforce is a good business decision.
First and foremost, companies mitigate the group think handicap by engaging female employees who may act, think, or approach problems differently than their male counterparts. Group think is a dangerous rabbit hole for any business to fall into, but by fostering diversity among your company’s employees, it can be avoided.
Putting women in leadership roles is also a good move, statistically, for any business. Startups with female executives go public and are acquired more often, while women on corporate boards deliver a 46 percent higher return on equity.
Additionally, industries and products that are female-centric can flourish when women are involved in every step, from research and development through marketing and sales. Having representatives of your target audience working behind the scenes is crucial to, yet again, avoiding that group think mentality and catering as directly as possible to the wants and needs of your customers.
The female brain is suited to today’s tech world
A man’s left-brain tendencies — systematic, organized, logical — have long been considered to better align him with a profession in technology than those of a woman. However, today’s tech landscape is vastly different than it was five years ago, or even one year ago.
Even six months sees dynamic changes across the technology board. Women are the lead adopters of technology in our society, so it is baffling that they aren’t more involved in technological production.
Let’s take a moment to give credit where credit is due: Women’s brains are ideally suited to today’s socially-driven, design-minded, multitasking digital world (and while the female brain is physically smaller than a man’s, it is used more efficiently). Also, a woman’s eye for design is essential for developing user interfaces and for creating visually tantalizing products that people suddenly can’t seem to live without.
Furthermore, males tend to have verbal centers only in the left hemisphere whereas verbal centers can typically be found on both hemispheres of the female brain. With this inherent leg up on communication, women would do well in the growing field of natural language processing, where computer and human languages intersect.
Signs of progress
We have reason to hope that the technology sector is opening up for women. Many universities are experiencing an increase in female computer programming students.
At UC Berkeley last spring, more women than men enrolled in an introductory computer science course for the first time in the school’s histor when they renamed and restructured the class “Introduction to Symbolic Logic” as the more right-brained “Beauty and the Joy of Computing.”
I say more girl power to them.