Gender gap in tech careers

I’m enrolled in an undergraduate class online at Portland Community College, this summer: Technology in Education. It’s worth taking for the content and the sheer good-naturedness of the instructor. It’s a decent class – I wish I spent a little more time participating in the discussion forums. I thought maybe this could be an extension of my participation there.

In our most recent assignment, she asked us to examine the gender gap in tech careers. One of the comments I found interesting came out of this article in the TimesOnline.

“I just think that people don’t see clear areas to be promoting women,” she explained. “Whereas it’s always been the case that men went into engineering. You didn’t have to promote it, it’s just something you saw around you…”

This has gotten me thinking about a couple of the programs that we offer at the college I currently work at. In the past 2.5 years, I have knowledge of very few women enrolling in coursework with the Industrial Maintenance Technology program. This is not something that I am overly concerned about – I think people will find their way to whatever path or occupation is best for them.

In things like IMT or agriculture or computer science, it still seems like it is very commonplace for men to be doing it; it’s just accepted.

Wouldn’t it be great if at an earlier age woman discovered that they want to be computer scientists or mechanics or civil engineers? Pacific University recently wrapped up their summer computer science program for middle school girls. I worked in a middle school for a few months – I constantly heard that students in that age bracket are some of the most impressionable.

On a related note, Dr. Juliet Brosing, the professor that started this program up at Pacific, was named the 2012 Professor of the Year in Oregon and she has been doing this kind of stuff for years – helping middle-school aged girls get interested in science and computers. I just think she’s a good example to look at – we should all be advocating for young people to have exposure to things they may one day be passionate about.

In my own life, I think I’ve had good advocates for science, technology and engineering. In junior high and high school, I participated in summer women in technology programs, and when I went to college, I had remarkable advisors (Dr. Brosing among them) that encouraged me in whatever I chose to pursue. I wound up back in education primarily because I have always had enormous respect for HS and college-level teachers.

[To Be Revised a bit]

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