On International Women’s Day, Thoughts On Gender And STEM

In nearly every country in the world, technology plays a major role. Yet, even though women make up half the global population, they make up only a fraction of technology college graduates and the technology workforce. And, there’s a disturbing trend in some regions of the world where the number of women pursuing education and careers in technology fields are declining.

As we commemorate International Woman’s Day 2015, we decided to explore why the number of women entering technology fields does not reflect the global population. We asked four members of the Internet Society Hall of Fame for their insights on how to attract more girls and women to careers in technology.

Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).
Elizabeth Feinler, who pioneered and managed the U.S. Defense Department’s ARPANET and the Defense Data Network (DDN).
Nancy Hafkin, who worked to build Africa’s ICT framework.
Radia Perlman, who helped transform Ethernet into a protocol able to handle large clouds.
IHOF: Why hasn’t the Internet economy produced a higher percentage of women in technology?

Hafkin: Technology is embedded in society. And in society, gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender bias impede girls’ and women’s uptake of technology. While females are using the Internet and social media at the same if not greater rate than males in the U.S. today, that does not carry over to pursuing STEM careers.

Feinler: I think the recent economy plays a role. When a family’s house is in foreclosure or jobs are scarce or non-existent,women tend to be the ones that suffer. They take any job available to make ends meet, and forego their ambitions to keep families together. Also, one is more reluctant to take on student loan debt in a bad economy. However, we are finally coming out of that period, and it was probably an aberration to the overall problem of women choosing or graduating in STEM.

To read the rest of this article, published in TechCrunch, please click here.