Study after study has shown that diversity in the workplace has significant impacts on an organization’s employee morale, productivity and profitability. Yet, at the same time, we continue to see upstream challenges to the participation of women in those industries responsible for driving innovation in the economy. Just look at the percentage of women employees in tech companies – women make up no more than 20% of the tech workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter.
With this in mind, in early 2014, Google undertook a study of their own. The aim was to identify the factors that influenced young women in their choice of computer science degrees. The results were encouraging – and, I must admit, quite surprising.
The study distinguished between uncontrollable and controllable factors. Analysis of the uncontrollable factors – such as ethnicity, early exposure to computers, natural aptitude and so on – revealed that they play a very limited role in influencing young women in their choice of technology study. It is the controllable factors – that largely determine decision-making – and this means that these factors can be acted upon and amplified.
There are four factors that can be influenced and there are four steps we can take to encourage young women into technology careers. These are:
- Social encouragement
- Self perception
- Academic exposure
- Career perception
Nina Nets It Out: Controllable factors can be influenced – which represents an opportunity but also a challenge. Without systematic approaches, we will continue to see computer science – and by extension – innovation, suffer. By addressing this problem programmatically we can have a massive impact on the lives of young women while also strengthening the economy. Of course, even if we want to hire more women, we still need to find them.