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International Women’s Day: Making It Happen for Girls and Women in Tech

This post originally appeared on the IIE blog and is re-posted with permission. 

By: Beth Garriott

Today, women make up 12 percent of all computer science grads. Just three decades ago, they represented 37 percent. They’re half the workforce, but hold only a quarter of technical or computing jobs.

If current trends continue, the Department of Labor estimates half of the 1.4 million new STEM-related jobs in this country will go unfilled.

This reality is of course not confined to the United States — it’s even more pronounced in other countries, especially in the developing world.

March 8th was International Women’s Day. And internationally, women and men should be outraged by this. When we close the door to opportunity — especially opportunity in the sector that is the engine of modern economic growth — we all suffer. Our tech companies and our society are worse off.

IIE QualcommWith the accelerating growth of engineering-related jobs across the world, engaging and supporting more women is critical to both bridge the talent gap and provide companies with the diverse skills and perspectives necessary to thrive.

Luckily, some companies recognize this. They’re leading the way in creating a future in which every human being has a chance at creating their own future.

One such Company is Qualcomm, in partnership with IIE’s Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program. Qualcomm recognizes the critical need to invest in women who wish to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in order to develop a pipeline of future professionals in STEM.

Take Sarah-Marie. At Qualcomm’s Qcamp for Girls in STEM, she was exposed to the idea of a career in technology for the first time, and her world was changed.

Or take the many women and men across Africa who make up the WeTech Seed Fund for Women and Girls in Computer Science. In sixteen countries, 33 organizations have been funded through the WeTech Seed Fund to inspire girls through technology.

OT-International-Womens-Day-Making-It-Happen-For-Girls-And-Women-In-Tech-Image-2One WeTech grantee, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), is combining programming and entrepreneurship to dramatically increase the number of girls interested in STEM careers in Nigeria — empowering girls as problem solvers and inventors. Another grantee initiated a project called Tech Needs Girls, which teaches hundreds of girls in Ghana to code, lead, and innovate through a hands-on mentorship and internship program.

IIE is committed to making a dent in this major social issue. WeTech was launched in 2013 to build a steady pipeline of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and address the technology industry’s need for more professionals with technical knowledge. WeTech works with a range of partners to build a healthy pipeline of girls and women in tech fields by linking them to opportunities that will inspire, engage, and support them for entrance and success in high-paying tech careers.

From an innovative, hands-on after school program for secondary school girls in India, to scholarships and internships that further support female students in their academic lives to better prepare for the globally competitive world, to mentoring for young women who are just entering the work force, WeTech designs interventions that address each step along the school to career pipeline.

If you have ideas for increasing opportunities for girls and women in STEM and tech, contact us at WeTech@iie.org. We’re looking to engage more companies interested being part of the solution — partly out of self-interest, and partly because it’s the right thing to do.

The time for talk is over. We know the extent of the problem. Now let’s do something about it. Together.

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Beth Garriott is Senior Program Officer for WeTech in San Francisco at the Institute of International Education (IIE). She is thrilled to have found a community of globe-trotting, world-changing, international-minded friends and colleagues in the Bay Area through BAIL.

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