In his March 16th article for Forbes.com, The Real Reason Most Women Don’t Go Into Tech, Gene Marks made some seriously false assertions about why women make up a minority of workers in the technology industry. This is not the first time Mr. Marks has gotten it wrong. Just under a year ago, he wrote another article for Philadelphia magazine that included the line, “That Tech Girl Talk session? Seems pretty hot.” Then, as now, he has done significant harm to both women and the technology industry. It is time for a re-education.
Having spent the last 15 years as a woman in technology, and having been part of the movement to get more women and girls into technology over the last seven, I was appalled by the content of the article. Not only was the article poorly written, under researched, and incoherently reasoned, the conclusion Mr. Marks came to is patently false.
As the founder of TechGirlz, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping middle school girls understand opportunities in the technology industry, I have spent a lot of time researching and comprehending why there has been a decline in girls and women entering the field. The facts are clear: girls think computer careers are boring, the media portrays techies as nerds and geeks, schools offer few programming or tech classes, and parents do not fully understand all the choices that tech offers for careers. It has become undeniably obvious that technology as a career is not being presented to girls in a way that is attractive to them. The solution is simple: change how technology jobs are presented and girls will choose to pursue them.
The clearest example of this is Harvey Mudd College. Maria Klawe, president of the college, has been able to increase the percentage of female computer science majors at her school from 10 percent to 40 percent in six years. In an interview with U.S. News, she said, “We changed the context of the intro course to ‘creative problem-solving in science and engineering using computational approaches with Python’ instead of ‘learn to program in Java’ and made sure that the homework assignments were a lot of fun. We did not reduce the level of rigor or challenge, and we increased the amount of programming.”
At TechGirlz, we have been incredibly successful doing exactly the same thing. Over the past four years, we have worked with 1500 girls in grades six to nine. We have waitlists for our workshops and receive weekly requests to host them across the country. After attending just one session, 70 percent of these girls have positively changed their opinions about having a career in technology.
I would have gladly told Mr. Marks all these things if he would have contacted me as a source in place of his son, whom I am sure is an upstanding young man. Instead he wrote, “The real reason is that most women clearly aren’t as interested in technology-related work as men are. It’s a choice.”
Mr. Marks, once again, you have proven that you would rather make broad statements, which are based on your limited opinion, than actually research and report the facts. You are hurting women and the technology industry as a result. I invite you to stop this cycle so we do not have a similar exchange for the third time next year. Come to a TechGirlz workshop or the Women in Tech Summit and talk to real-life girls and women who are living proof that when presented with a choice to engage in technology jobs that are attractive to them, they will take them. I promise you will learn a lot and have a good story to write.
This article was written by Valley Voices from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.