The tech field has not been kind to women in the workforce with only 25 percent of the jobs held by women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, those statistics are changing, as the wage gap decreases and the demand to fill more positions continues to grow. Surprisingly, it’s not happening in cities like San Francisco or Seattle, where the tech field and tech conglomerates have long been residing.
According to a study conducted by Smartasset.com, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans are the top two cities in the country with the highest percentage of women holding positions in computer fields. With 37% of the tech workforce made up of women, Washington, D.C. holds the top spot mostly for its highly regulated hiring policies in the federal government, the largest tech employer in the city, which allows for a diverse workforce that reflects the city’s population. In New Orleans, where the technology sector is smaller but growing at an unprecedented pace, the tech workforce is made up of 36.5% women. This is partially due to a growing demand for tech talent and better pay equality. The gender wage gap, at 4%, is significantly smaller than the national average of 15%.
“This says that New Orleans is going to be the place for women to grow and thrive in tech careers,” said Torrie Adams, Head of Product Development & Support at Kickboard – a software platform that uses data analysis to improve a schools performance. “It’s a well known fact that people tend to hire people that remind them of themselves. So the fact that we have the second highest percentage of women in tech in the country means that we will see tremendously faster growth in the number of women in tech than the cities that ranked lower.”
If the Silicon Valley area, the perceived mecca of technology, isn’t an obvious top spot for women working in the technology sector, then what makes a city attractive to women seeking those competitive positions?
“New Orleans has attracted talent from around the country, and with that foundational culture of support and respect, we’ve got a tech industry that is experienced, talented, and always eager to help a newbie out, “ said Adams. “That combination is not easy to find. When women in New Orleans go to a tech event, we run into other women, we see people we know, we meet new people, and best of all: we don’t just feel welcome, we feel like we belong.”
Angie Scott, COO of Search Influence in New Orleans, says that New Orleans is open to interviewing and hiring a diverse set of people. As her staff, which is now made up of 68% women, continues to grow, they no longer see themselves as “women in tech” but as a members of a team who can code, design and marry technology and marketing to create real life solutions for their clients. Scott also sees that as more women take leadership roles as business owners, executives and managers, the technology sector is becoming no different than any other field.
“Women are coming to find out that in New Orleans you can find that balance here- you can be an executive in a company, but still run a home and have a family and be really happy doing so,” added Scott. “I’m not saying that putting in the hours isn’t super attractive in an employee, but more so that by allowing women to have it all, we get to enjoy the fruits of having many more women in businesses.”
New Orleans has attracted entrepreneurs and millennials by offering a low cost of living and high quality of life, which helps to further create that work/life balance. Additionally, as the gender wage gap continues to close, achieving that balance will be even more attainable and attractive to talented women looking to fill those positions.
Changing Patterns For The Future
Adams, who is also the President at New Orleans WIT (Women In Technology), argues that the underrepresentation of women in the technology field stems from gender stereotypes being placed onto boys and girls at a young age. Young boys from the Boomer and Gen X generations were typically encouraged to play with computers while girls were overlooked and given different toys, which led to trends that made technology a male dominated industry.
“Without those early interactions, many girls didn’t develop a interest in computers, and therefore an academic degree and/or career in tech never occurred to them, added Adams. “We’re starting to see this change with Millennials and Gen Z, as access to technology is obviously so much easier now, but we still have the challenge of ensuring that girls are given access to higher level skills like programming as often as boys are.”
In an effort to help further change this pattern, the New Orleans WIT is hosting a game development workshop for middle school aged girls and boys later this month. Their workshop will aim to encourage children who are interested in video game development and make sure that girls are given the same opportunities as boys.
This article was written by Adriana Lopez from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.