Leading by Example: How We Can Get More Young Women into Tech

Jeanette Leeds Maister March 9, 2017

A couple of years ago, when my son was in first grade, he took a coding class after school. The class was in high demand at his school, in part because we as parents now have a greater appreciation for the importance of gaining computer science skills at a young age. (Oh, how helpful it would have been for me to take a coding class in elementary school!) Unsurprisingly, my son’s after-school class, which allowed for 15 students at most, sold out within minutes of registration opening up.

What did surprise me, however, when I picked him up from his first afternoon of coding was the number of girls in his class. Zero. Not one little girl had chosen to join the class and learn how to write code.

To some extent, this lack of interest may be the result of limited exposure to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field by this tender age, but it also could come down to not seeing themselves represented in the computer programming world.

A recent study from Microsoft reveals a similar story: The young girls surveyed said that a lack of female role models was a primary reason for not going into a career in STEM. They also felt that they weren’t getting enough practical, hands-on experience in STEM subjects. And, more than half responded that they would have more confidence in their success in a STEM field if they knew that both men and women were equally represented in those professions.

As I reflect on International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8 every year, I am reminded of the example that I have the privilege of providing as a female executive at a recruiting technology company. With its theme of #BeBoldForChange, the 2017 IWD campaign calls on each of us to help create a more gender inclusive world. I can’t help but wonder – what more can I do to be a vehicle for change, particularly to help increase female representation in the tech industry?

In my career, I’ve had to smash through barriers of my own to reach senior management levels. Now, I find myself in a position to pay it forward and help the next generation of young women realize their potential, whether it is in the technology industry, recruiting or another field altogether. Fortunately, in my current role at Oleeo, I sit on the leadership team of a company that is helping organizations of all types recruit diverse workforces to achieve improved innovation and growth.

By enabling a data-driven approach to talent acquisition, we are helping companies find and engage with more young female candidates and entry-level women from diverse backgrounds than ever before. The advanced algorithms available through our technology help reduce bias and level the playing field to ensure a more representative workforce that can further an organization’s ultimate success.

I take great pride in the role that I play in developing products that can accelerate gender parity in the workplace, and I look forward to continuing to do my part in advancing women’s opportunities in tech and other critical fields. As a first step, I’ll begin by signing up my daughter for that after-school coding class – even if she’s the only girl there.