I think the biggest challenge is not trying at all and fear of failure.
I think a lot of the biggest challenges are internal. If you're one of only a few women, it's easy to feel like you don't belong, and that there's going to be a spotlight on your mistakes.
Agreed with Melanie. And work-life balance ...
Work-life balance is big too. In some companies there's a chest-beating culture of heated/aggressive arguments, all-nighters, ruthless competitiveness, etc.
@Cecily: I agree that there is a bigger spotlight on females working in tech companies - one definitely stands out more.
Women deal with those challenges better in Teaching STEM fields rather than working in STEM, I think.
I am proud to say @Syncsort has done a great job in terms of diversity. Over 50% of R&D leadership is women and engineers constitute over 30% of the engineering workforce. This is very organic, and diversity is not limited to gender. Diversity fuels the innovation here.
There are more opportunities than ever for women and men to teach/mentor in tech.
Not sure, if any of you have read this Atlantic article. It's been making the rounds in my circles.
Exactly, Cecilia. I think Sheryl Sandberg does a great job discussing her experience in IT, work-life balance and how to break down barriers. I highly recommend her book, Lean In. Although it's controversial and many don't agree, it's the first real spotlight on the realities of being a woman in IT.
Something we don't always talk about is how much of programming involves failure, frustration, stuff not working, feeling lost, etc. If you're already having confidence issues or facing subtle undermining from your colleagues, it gets really difficult to deal with.
I have to say though, I am incredibly fortunate to work in a company that has so many women executives in director and VP positions. We also have a growing number of women developers on staff. I really believe the tides are changing. We need to keep the momentum going.
@tendu - That's great that you have a lot of diversity. I am always wary of getting opportunities because of my gender - I want to be hired because I am worthy, not because I am a woman. How does your company deal with this?
The wonderful thing about today is that the internet is the great equalizer. It's never been easier to learn how to code, how to master math, the fundamentals of the scientific process, etc. If you look at the different free online university courses available, all can learn and take part.
Great question @Steve ...lets hear from our panelists.
@Dave, working for many IT companies, I would say we are doing a better job today than 10 years ago. We do have ways to go.
I've worked in both the USA and Canada, and there are some large American companies making big strides, like Google and Etsy. In Toronto I've definitely encountered more great grassroots initiatives aimed at women.
@Jen, we don't do anything special to hire because people are women or latino, etc. we just organically have a great workforce and environment that is encouraging for diveristy.
Let's talk about barriers to entry: What can be done in the next week, next year and in the next several years to close the gap between men and women in STEM?
Tech orgs have a hard time finding candidates in general, so I wouldn't worry too much about getting a job because you are a woman. However, tech orgs recognize the benefit of gender diversity more than ever. It's important to having a highly effective team.
I think a big one is to think about adult women, as well as young girls (where a lot of the attention goes).
women who studied or worked in tech but dropped out, women who are picking up new skills, women who want to add tech skills to their existing jobs.
Education, education, education. Outreach through women's support groups, and government programs that help women get back in the work force. We seldom think of women who were once stay at home moms that have lots of potential. The opportunities are wide here.
More women candidates are out there if companies look beyond the archetypal dude with a CS degree and a nerdy t-shirt, to people who are coming at it from a different angle.
Mentorship and transparency: Lean In is a good example of transparency.
Bootcamps are a great way for women (and men) to skill up quickly, without going to University or College (which isn't always possible).
I think a lot of companies are hoping to find candidates who are just like the men they hire... except happen to be women. There just aren't a lot of those.
I would say a lack of awareness that these jobs are within reach and mentoring programs within organizations to grow and elevate women.
Unfortunately, less women are involved in tech than ever. We need to change this trend! In 1985, 37% computer science grads were female%, vs 18% today.
And yes, encouraging women to put themselves forward.
Many women have been historically shy about this topic with the concern on being misunderstood. That is, talking about it makes them different than the male competitors they are working together. This is certainly changing.