There is a shortage of women in the software development industry, and if steps aren’t taken to rectify this, they could be shut out completely, according to a newly released report. Accenture and Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to closing the technology gender gap, have released Cracking the Gender Code, a new report that aims to help businesses, organizations and schools obtain and retain women’s interest in computer science.
“Dramatically increasing the number of women in computing is critical to closing the computer science skills gap facing every business in today’s digital economy,” said Julie Sweet, group chief executive for Accenture North America, in a statement. “Without action, we risk leaving a large portion of our country’s talent on the sidelines of the high-value computing jobs that are key to U.S. innovation and competitiveness.”
As we enter the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” technology is becoming more pervasive and reshaping the global economy, explained Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. “[Computing] skills are the most sought-after in the U.S. job market, with demand growing 3x the national average. Computing is where the jobs are—and where they will be in the future. Yet women are on track to hold only one in five computing jobs. This gender gap not only exacerbates our national computing skills shortage, but it also has huge implications for the future of women in our economy,” she said.
The report surveyed 12- to 18-year-old girls, undergraduate college students and key influencers to find out how to best pique their interest in computer science. According to the report, in order to increase the amount of women in the software development workforce, businesses, schools and other organizations need to spark interest in junior high school, sustain engagement in high school, and inspire a career after college.
“The message is clear: A one-size-fits-all model won’t work,” said Saujani. “This report is a rallying cry to invest in programs and curricula designed specifically for girls. We need a new mindset and willingness to prioritize and focus on our nation’s girls, and we need it now.”
Sparking interest includes providing girls with hands-on experience, changing their perceptions of computing, and providing teachers and parents with the support they need to understand the role of computer science. To sustain engagement, schools can redesign their computer science courses to appeal to girls, motivate peers through grassroots campaigns, and hire more women teachers. To inspire young women in college, college courses can focus more on women, and universities can offer women immersion programs, as well as female mentorship and role models.
By making steps early in a girl’s education, companies can increase the amount of women in computing to 3.9 million by 2025. In addition, increasing the amount of women in the workforce will not only help reduce skill shortages, but will also boost women’s cumulative earnings by US$299 billion in the next 10 years, the report explained.
“The challenges we face originate in school, where too few girls are pursuing studies in computing and related subjects,” the report stated. “The sooner these actions are taken—and the earlier in a girl’s education—the bigger the uplift in getting girls and young women into computing.”