The One Persistent Reason Why There Aren’t More Women in Tech

A Philly startup offers some new information on the roadblock.

Girl in a robotics laboratory adjusts the robot arm model. iStock.

There’s one persistent reason why the tech workforce is notoriously male-dominated, and a report from Philly’s TechGirlz offers some new information on the roadblock.

In a survey of more than 1,000 girls around the country, girls reported feeling encouraged to pursue technology instruction by parents (70 percent), but said their schools often don’t provide ideal class offerings. Others have pointed to this phenomenon known as “middle school drop-off,” which suggests that girls miss their window into tech if they’re not engaged in tech-related content by their middle school years.

In the TechGirlz study, respondents indicated their preferred technology courses as, in order, multimedia, computer programming, and web design, but about half of those girls said their school did not offer those courses, and a small percentage said the courses didn’t fit their schedule if they were offered.

“Multiple studies show that we have a clear need for a greater number of more diverse technologists in America’s workforce,” said TechGirlz founder and CEO Tracey Welson-Rossman. “Engaging girls with compelling technology instruction sets them on a path towards a rewarding, empowering career in tech. Yet, our survey results show that schools are not getting the job done – girls are thirsty for more technology-related access and instruction in their classrooms.”

The study also asked girls about their long-term career interests. Girls were most interested in pursuing careers in business, science and engineering.

TechGirlz is one a few Philly nonprofits working to bolster tech education for students outside of school, with a specific focus on girls. But city tech leaders, through campaigns like CS4Philly that will launch this week, say its time to scale these small organizations and standardize tech education in Philadelphia’s classrooms. TechGirlz’s recommendation is that school systems partner with third party organizations that can support school efforts.

“Technology should not be a privilege,” said Welson-Rossman. “But until states require and fund core technology courses, wholesale changes to school curricula will be challenging to implement.”