The below is a guest post.
Don’t lie: you want the iPad Air even though it’s basically a giant skinny iPhone 5, which you already own. You’ve probably already put in your order for the Surface 2. You love gadgets. You love playing with them. You love tinkering with them. You love (it’s okay, I won’t tell) jail breaking them to make them more powerful.
You love tech, so why not (if you don’t already) make a living doing what you love? The tech sector is the fastest growing area of our economy and it pays really well. What’s more, the tech sector needs you. Did you know that the current flow of students into the industry isn’t enough to keep up with the demand for skills? In an article for ABC, Linda Scherr (the chairwoman of the Women in Tech program at IBM) makes this point: “Since half of the work force are women and so few go into computers…we’re on the brink of disaster here.”
The subject of the lack of women in tech isn’t anything new on this site. It’s more of a pet subject and for good reason: the tech sector needs more women. Period. So why aren’t we flooding this marketplace, kicking ass and taking names?
Some experts think it’s because we, as women, are indoctrinated against computers and tech jobs. This infographic over at Women 2.0 points out that, of the girls surveyed for their study, 90% wanted only to help people when they grew up and didn’t see computer science as a way to do that. Why? Because they’d been taught that computer science is a solitary profession and that it was suited more for men. In that same article for ABC I already mentioned, the primary subject of the article, Katy, says that computer science is for geeky nerdy guys and she doesn’t want people to think of her as geeky, nerdy or a guy.
The good news is that things are starting to change. All over the world, programs and schools are popping up that are focused on getting more girls and women jazzed about tech, computers and computer science. App Camp for Girls, for example, is a summer camp that focuses on teaching girls ages 12-14 how much fun and how rewarding the world of app development can be.
In the UK, Anne-Marie Imafidon has started up Stemettes—an initiative that helps girls see that there really are other women within the tech sector by introducing high level female techies to girls and holding events like “hackathons” to help show how much fun working with computer systems can be and that being female doesn’t mean you’re biologically less suited for working with technology.
But what if you’re not a girl anymore? Where are the App Camps for grownups?
Enter: the all important IT Degree
While it’s true that, for many areas of tech, at least a four year degree in computer science or computer engineering is important, that isn’t an industry-wide requirement. There are plenty of classes you can take to get your feet wet and decide whether or not this is a field for you.
Start with your local community centers and community colleges. You’ll find basic and introductory courses in programming, design, web stuff, etc. These courses are often geared toward people with little to no tech background, so don’t worry: everybody else there feels as new and vulnerable as you do.
Even better, there are online schools that will allow you to obtain your degree. Information technology is one of those fields that doesn’t have to be taught in a traditional classroom setting; you can appropriately prepare students for an online IT degree using an e-portal. Take your lessons online at your own pace and according to your own schedule (which is handy for women who are already holding down full-time employment in another field or who have busy family lives or both).
There are all sorts of high paying fun tech sector jobs that you can get with a simple certification or two year online IT degree (that you can then use to build up for that coveted four-year or Master’s degree, if that’s the goal). You don’t have to worry that you’re putting in 4-6 years learning something that might not be exactly right after all—a worry many women with already responsibility-heavy lives worry about.
The point is this: you are never too old to get into tech. You’re never too old to help tip the scales in our favor. More importantly—the more of us who enter the field, the more of our daughters won’t be intimidated out of something they love simply because they think their biology makes them poor fits for it.