Why More Women Should Work in Technology

Women make up over half of the world’s population yet hold only 25% of the IT-related jobs in the United States. According to CareerBuilder.com, the field of IT or Information Technology pays very well – average salaries for top IT jobs range from $59,000 to $120,000. Jobs in IT include everything from helping plan projects and creating computer prototypes to developing company data analysis making recommendations to senior management. Most jobs in IT require a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer information systems, or math.
           
So it pays well, sure, buy why is IT so important? IT people are responsible for all of the phone lines, computers, security programs, e-mail, and databases of a given company. The IT department is the gas that keeps the engine of the company running. If a company runs out of IT, you can bet that that company is going to come to a screeching halt pretty darn soon.
 
So if the job is important, requires only a Bachelor’s degree, and often pays over six figures, why aren’t more women jumping at the chance to work in IT? To be quite honest, IT isn’t sexy. Microsoft, however, is trying to change that. In April 2010, Microsoft hosted the US Finals for the Imagine Cup 2010. The Imagine Cup is a software and game design competition that encourages young people to apply their imagination, passion and creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world. According to Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President of Worldwide Education, the Imagine Cup “empowers students to use their creativity to change the world” by allowing them to compete to win prizes by developing software and computer games that strive to solve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals.
 
Since its inception eight years ago, the Imagine Cup has grown from a single-country competition with 1,000 student competitors to a worldwide battle between over 300,000 students from 150 countries around the globe. This year’s competition was divided into two sections: software design and game design. 22,000 American students applied to the preliminary rounds of the competition. Of these 22,000, 80 were selected to fly to Washington for the national finals.
 
What was perhaps most exciting about the US finals for the Imagine Cup 2010 was that two of the top four software design teams were comprised entirely of women. The two teams, Team Blob, and the MangoBunnies, wound up placing 2nd and 4th in the US finals for software design. Team Blob (4th place) designed a multi-touch teaching software for use in K-12 classrooms. The MangoBunnies (2nd place) designed a mobile app intended to keep women safe. 

Team Blob members, from left, Lori Rebenitsch, Robyn Krage, and Jaelle Scheurman demonstrate their application that aims to bring emerging multitouch technology into K-12 classrooms.
 
Her Campus was able to sit down for a chat with Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President of Worldwide Education, about the importance of bringing more women into the field of IT.
 
Her Campus:Tell me a little bit about the involvement of women in the Imagine Cup.

Anthony Salcito: One of the things I was most impressed about was the improvement in female participants from year to year. We had one all female team compete last year, they were back again competing in action this year and they actually won 1st place in our software design competition. We also had another team that placed in the finals. In addition, many of the other teams featured strong female team members and I thought that was amazing.

Team Blob, one of the all female teams at the US finals hug when they hear that they made it into the final round of the competition.

HC: Why is it important for more women to go into the field of Computer Science?

AS: We need to get more people in general across our country in technology, science, and math careers. Certainly the easiest way to do this is to get more women involved not only for their contributions to diversity, new perspectives, etc… but just because of the sheer number of people we need.

HC: Have you made any concerted efforts in order to get more women to participate in the Imagine Cup?

AS: One thing we saw was that by grounding the focus to making change in society and onto helping the environment and helping to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, we increased the attractiveness of the competition in general to a wide range of student participants [including more women]…we’ve inspired students of all backgrounds to engage.

HC: Other than taking Comp Sci courses in college, what are some ways to prepare for a job in a technology field, say at Microsoft for example?

AS: One of the things about technology careers is that they’re getting very diverse, so [some of the most important skills are] core communication backgrounds, collaboration skills, working in a team…There’s a wide variety of uses of technology in every industry – weather it’s health, entertainment…technology careers are in every facet of work and certainly embrace every skill set… Focus on core skills, especially on math and science. Also focus on collaboration skills, and written and verbal communication skills. Most importantly, be excited about what you’re doing and remember that the field of technology offers a broad variety of career options.

Team Mango Bunnies, the second all-female team to make it to the US National Finals.
 
Sources:
Anthony Salcito, Microsoft VP Worldwide Education
 
Microsoft - “More Women in Technology Needed”
 
Career Builder – “Top 10 Jobs in Information Technology”