As we inch closer to 2020, a statistic by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sits looming as a reminder of the massive gender gap in the technology industry. According to the BLS, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the US by 2020, but women will be on track to only fill 3% of these positions.

Additionally, the BLS states that 68% of women enroll in college (compared to 63% of men), and women increasingly outnumber men in college graduation rates. Yet women still make up only a quarter of the tech industry workforce.

Where is the disconnect?
According to Code.org, nine out of 10 high schools in the United States fail to offer computer science classes, and in 33 of 50 states, computer science classes do not count towards high school math or science graduation requirements.

In a recent Google study, the company surveyed approximately 1,600 men and women. Their findings indicated that girls aren’t taught what computer science actually means, and are half as likely to be encouraged to study it. Females that had no association with computer science used words such as “boring” and “difficult” to describe the industry.

Companies are well aware of these shortages and the disconnect that exists among young women. Therefore, many are taking great strides to change the stereotypes; to engage girls at an early age; and to encourage young women to enter into fields that include technology; whether it is computer science, engineering or IT.

​OpTech is one of these firms. We are partnering with several organizations to change the trend with the ultimate goal of hiring more women for IT roles, even if they haven’t been in the workforce for several years. According to NCWIT, 56% of women in technology leave their employers midcareer. Of the women who leave, 24% take a non-technical job in a different company; 22% become self-employed in a tech field, 20% take time out of the workforce, and 10% go to work with a startup company. This is double the turnover rate of men.

Although this seems like an unfortunate statistic, there is promise within it. There are several women that have taken time out of the workforce, but are looking for a way to get back into it. OpTech is partnering with several stakeholders on an initiative called “Silicon Lakes.” The program’s mission is intended to re-engage and bring tech professional women with a career gap back to work and help them reach their full potential.

Silicon Lakes’ objectives are the following:

  • To make it easier for qualified women to return to work after a career break
  • To provide avenues through which MI employers can find a pool of high caliber professionals
  • To facilitate access to resources, networks, and learning opportunities to succeed and to institute innovative and concrete tactics to ease women back to work.

What is the end goal?
Our goal is to create a large, rich pipeline of talented tech women in Michigan and bridge the gender gap while promoting creativity, diversity, and experience in the workplace. We want to bring tech women with career breaks together to reinforce their identity, and open up opportunities to re-engage in the Michigan economy.

It Makes Business Sense
Customer demographics are changing. In much of our research, woman are changing the way business is done and how it is done. Did you know that 90% of the financial decisions in a household are made by women, and guess what? Women have become significant household earners and the key decision makers. According to the Wall Street Journal, by 2022, women will control over 60% of the wealth in the United States. Companies with women in leadership roles crush the competition according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
 
Over the course of the next six years, it is projected that there will be a gap of 811,000 career openings to fill in Michigan alone. We must act swiftly to change the current patterns and design sustainable pipeline approaches for highly-skilled talent to fill the anticipated open positions. The shortage of qualified talent is a major concern as it poses a real threat to the economic growth and prosperity of our state and our nation.
 
Next Steps
If you or someone you know, in the field of IT or engineering, is trying to get back into the workforce, contact our Director of Recruiting, Debbie Blair at dblair@optechus.com or call her directly at 313-879-6211. To learn more about Silicon Lakes, please contact Director of Marketing, Laura Ziegler directly at 313-879-6234 or email her at lziegler@optechus.com

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