Report: Women in Technology Driven by Desire to Help Others, Most Concerned About a Lack of Representation

Family members’ influence, early computer education, and growth opportunities affect whether girls go into technology-focused careers and women stay in them, according to a study launched by Southfield’s Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation.
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woman working with technology illustration
Women in technology want to help people and are concerned about a lack representation, according to a survey by the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation. // Stock photo

Family members’ influence, early computer education, and growth opportunities affect whether girls go into technology-focused careers and women stay in them, according to a study launched by Southfield’s Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation.

The multi-stakeholder study aims to understand the state of girls and women in technology – what drives then, challenges them, and makes them stay. The results provide actionable insights and resources for technology executives, human resources leaders, educators, and parents.

“Explore, Focus, and Grow: A Technology Career Journey in Michigan” includes findings from conversations with middle school girls participating in technology camps as well as surveys with university students and women working in technology. In each stage, technology careers attract girls and women through opportunities to create positive impact, solve problems, and be creative.

As females progress in college technology programs, they focus on learning and tend to be concerned by a lack of representation in tech fields. In established careers, women become motivated by stability and financial rewards and become concerned with being valued equally, seizing growth opportunities, and balancing careers with other priorities.

“This study revealed fresh data on what motivates girls and women to choose technology over other fields, which in turn provides insights for the teachers and role models in their lives to show how this field matches those interests and desires,” says Chris Rydzewski, executive director of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation. “What’s more, we see how MCWT programs, such as Camp Infinity and Girls GET-IT, are engaging girls and igniting their tech interest. And while we know there is always more work to do, the study suggests that we are gaining ground in our vision of making Michigan the top state for women in technology.”

These are the top study findings:

  1. Family members are a primary influence; many surveyed middle school girls and university students have family members in tech.
  2. Early computer education sparks interest in girls. Some recall experiences they had in early elementary school. More than half of university students cite a computer class teacher as having been very influential in their choice of study.
  3. Female university students are most excited about the prospect of using technology to improve the lives of others and society at large. They are drawn to technology to help others (33 percent), be creative (22 percent), innovate (19 percent), constantly learn (14 percent) and solve problems (10 percent).
  4. University students expressed concerns about the lack of representation in the field (26 percent) and their own lack of confidence (23 percent).
  5. Women see the technology field as growing and offering solid career prospects. They also think it will give them a sense of satisfaction and personal accomplishment.
  6. Women consistently highlight four growth opportunities that keep them engaged and motivated: training and development, mentorship, opportunities to lead, and being given new challenges.
  7. Professional women are most likely to list a lack of representation (34 percent) and gender bias (27 percent) as their main concerns. The same is true for female university students.
  8. Offering flexible schedules is seen as the most effective recruitment tactic by 35 percent of professional women. It’s also a top mention in ways that employers have encouraged their careers.
  9. Nearly all professional women (95 percent) said highlighting women in leadership positions was very to somewhat effective when recruiting female talent.
  10. Those surveyed sited advantages Michigan has over other states, including a low cost of living (47 percent), urban culture and natural beauty in proximity (45 percent), high quality of life (43 percent), and culturally diverse communities (40 percent).

The foundation interviewed or surveyed about 500 women from different groups. The study was made possible by support from Ford Motor Co. and is available here. The foundation’s goal is to make Michigan the No. 1 state for women in technology. It supports Michigan’s female information technology workforce, students, corporate partners, schools, and the community with programming, scholarships, networking, learning, mentoring, and technology experiences.

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