Women in Tech: 'The Culture is the Problem'

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. Graduates in the United States are on track to fill 29 percent of thosejobs. Women are on track to fill just 3 percent.

These estimates are according to Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization founded by Reshma Saujani, who was the commencement speaker at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Saujani’s speech focused on a message to urge women to be brave, and bypass the cubicle for the corner office. “Push them to take risks. Reward them for trying,” she said. “If you do your part if we all do our part then we will unleash the most badass generation of women leaders the world has ever seen.”

She illuminated this vision by comparing her rise in the tech world to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was the main commencement speaker for Thursday’s Harvard graduation ceremonies. While she envies his ability to take risks, she also thinks that there is room in this country for people of all walks of life to occupy boardrooms and the big chair:

“But America is a big, beautiful, diverse country…[yet white men have] occupied a platform that the rest of us haven’t had access to. The good news is that platform is no longer out of reach. In the last half-century, women and people of color have been climbing.”

In a career that opened with not one but three rejection letters from Yale Law School before she transferred in to pursue a career in politics and social justice, to losing two races for public office, Saujani found her niche when she founded Girls Who Code in 2012.

The organization, which is dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap within the tech world, is estimated to serve 40,000 young women across all 50 states, while offering 76 free summer immersion programs sponsored by 39 companies and philanthropic organizations. According to the organization’s website, the disparity of women within the tech market has been getting worse since the 1980’s. In 1984, 37 percent of computer science graduates were women compared to only 18 percent, currently.

AT&T (No. 3 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), Mastercard (No. 7), Prudential Financial (No. 15), Dell (No. 26), Target (No. 22), Toyota (Toyota Motor North America is No. 34) and General Motors (No. 42) are also among the list of corporations partnered with the Girls Who Code organization.

Ivanka Trump’s recent book “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success” used a quote from Saujani, who said she would rather not have been included.

Girls Who Code also supported Women’s March on Washington, a grassroots women-led movement in which participants and supporters marched for social justice and equality.

Strong female leaders like Saujani are important in the tech field as women continue to try and break into the male-dominated field. Companies such as Google have publicly shown that barriers remain in Silicon Valley.

The company is currently facing a lawsuit from the Department of Labor after it refused to share its pay data following accusations that it systemically underpays its female employees. Last week in court an attorney for Google said it would be too expensive of a project to tabulate the data, calling it “a very time-consuming and burdensome project.”

This excuse came despite Google’s claim a little more than a month earlier that it had managed to close its gender pay gap globally.

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