It’s no secret that IT is experiencing a shortage of talented professionals for hire. Partially to blame is the fact that up until lately, the majority of the female half of the population wasn’t even considering an IT profession. But now, in this traditionally male-driven industry where the vast majority of funded tech start-ups are run by men, women are finally making their mark.
In Minnesota, women are working together to start their own IT businesses and help each other succeed. The Minnesota High Tech Association, (MHTA), recently started a new program to support women driving, leading and enabling business through technology called Women Leading in Technology, (WLiT). WLiT offers women the opportunity to network with others in the industry and provides learning opportunities for future growth. The CEO of the MHTA, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, is a participant in the group and will partake in the upcoming September 12th WLiT Roundtable event, helping women diversify their connections and learn more about the industry.
ESP’s Director of Business Development, Denise Morelock, has been a part of WLiT since its early days and believes it is filling a great need for women in technology in the Twin Cities. “Its members and event attendees benefit from hearing shared experiences, learning about business and technology, and discussing issues that face professionals who are looking to achieve more in both their business and personal lives.”
Minnesota is not the only place women are supporting one another while gaining respect in the IT industry. CIO.com reports that over 70% of U.S. female leaders in the technology industry have earned degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree, and that they are earning equal pay to their male peers. President and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International (TCGi), Avis Yates Rivers is one of the pioneering women who have made leaps in advancing the industry for women, pointing out major issues such as the feeling of isolation many women have reported while working in a primarily male workplace, and the lack of mentors available who are willing to help women succeed. Rivers, like many women in the industry, is constantly looking for ways to help improve the future of the industry for female IT professionals. Organizations like the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), of which Rivers is a board member, helps point out areas where improvement is needed.
For starters, women are not entering the IT world as rapidly as men. Female enrollment in information technology programs is at about 15% nationwide, and though that rate is increasing, the numbers are still low. Many schools are working on female-focused marketing campaigns and more female-awarded scholarships to promote enrollment in the program, and to show women they are welcome. For example, the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD is implementing a mentorship program to help female students feel more comfortable in a classroom where they are drastically the minority.
These innovations are worthwhile, as having women on your team has been proven to be effective. According to the National Center for Women and Technology, companies with the highest representation of women in their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment than did those with few or no women.
The NCWIT and local associations like WLiT are constantly seeking growth opportunities and ways to improve the future for women in information technology. Today, only 3% of start-up technology companies are run by women. But that percentage isn’t likely to stay that small. Things are changing for women in technology, and the number of women running start-ups and finding their place in IT is growing. The other half of the population is getting into the technology race. So be watching: women are ready to give this industry a run for it’s money.