It’s a well-known fact: Women are under-represented in technology fields, especially in the U.S. Today only 18 percent of software developers in the U.S. are women. The reasons for this are convoluted, and the reality of it is disheartening. But it’s not a permanent status quo. It’s a situation that is changing. And if you’re a woman considering a career in computing, there are many good reasons to do so…despite our recent history that has led to women being in the minority in the computer sciences.
Why Don’t We Have More Women in Tech?
If you want to find the answer to the question, “Why don’t more women work in technology?”, get ready to open a Pandora’s Box. You’ll find people with all kinds of reasons, from the stereotypes that say women just don’t want to, to the shocking attitudes revealed in the Google Manifesto, to women themselves talking about the barriers they face, or the lack of women mentors already working in the field.
And, of course, we have society in general to blame as well, with the messages that pervade our culture. In the 1980s, women were pursuing computer science degrees in droves, up until 1984 when the new home computers were marketed exclusively to men and boys, clearly differentiating between what was “appropriate” for boys vs. girls. Then the numbers of women studying computer science went into a steep decline—or nosedive, if you want a more accurate description.
That bias exists still today, more than 30 years later. Part of the blame can be traced to the early education of our children. As Tracey Welson-Rossman, the founder of TechGirlz, has said: “It has become undeniably obvious that technology as a career is not being presented to girls in a way that is attractive to them.”
Why aren’t more women working in technology careers? There isn’t one answer to that question. But there is hope, because the situation is changing. Due to concerted efforts to bring about change, women now make up more than half of computer science graduates entering the workforce, and women under the age of 25 today are 33 percent more likely to study computer science compared to women born before 1983. Things are looking up, and that’s going to make the benefits of a career in tech more accessible to more women.
3 Reasons for Choosing a Career in Software Development
If you’re a woman considering a technology-based career, consider software development. If you live outside of the U.S., you might find you’re in good company. India, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, China, Sri Lanka and Italy are the six countries with the highest percentage of women software developers. The U.S. ranked 11th.
That low number might put you off, but hang on, because we’re going to give you three reasons why software development is a good career choice for women (and men too):
Reason 1: Software development is a fast-growing field with a lot of career potential.
Why consider a career as a software developer? For one thing, it’s a great job! US News & World Report named software developer the best job of 2018. For another, it’s a rapidly growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the number of software developer jobs in the U.S. will grow by 24 percent by 2026. Already about 250,000 software developer jobs are unfilled in the U.S. and we can expect that number to grow as the demand for software developers continues to outpace the supply.
Then there’s the near future, that will see the nature of work as we know it change. More than half of U.S. workers will be freelancers by 2027, and software developers will be among them. USA Today includes software developers on their list of 20 in-demand freelance skills.
Software development jobs also pay well. The average developer salary is $103,000 according to BLS data. In general, tech careers tend to pay better because of supply and demand: Women working in IT make 33 percent more than women working in traditional roles.
Reason 2: You can get into software development without a college degree.
If plenty of job opportunities and high pay aren’t enough, the low barrier to entry is another reason to consider software development. Although it depends on the situation, you don’t necessarily need a degree in computer science to get a job as a software developer. One survey discovered 56 percent of software developers don’t have a computer science degree, and 69.1 percent consider themselves self-taught. In a report on software development trends for 2018, you’ll find “willingness to learn” is the most important criteria when hiring software developers, with cultural fit second in importance. Work experience and technical skill are tied for third. A college degree is near the bottom of the list, making “willingness to learn” 8.4 times more important than a degree.
In addition, it’s easier to get educated without the cost of college, because software developers have multiple ways to learn on their own, including studying online, programming on their own, doing boot camps and earning certifications.
Reason 3: Software development is a flexible career.
Although you might assume that a career in software development will require moving to Silicon Valley and getting entrenched in the “boys only” environment, fighting against gender bias for the next few years, that’s definitely not required. Software developers are needed at all types of companies, big and small. In addition, software developers can work remotely, so you don’t have to move to a tech hub like Silicon Valley to find work. In fact, 89 percent of software developers in the U.S. work somewhere other than Silicon Valley.
Which brings us to the next point: Software developers can work remotely. In 2015, about 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs in the U.S. worked from home at least part of the time. And that’s a job perk they insist upon: A 2017 survey found 53 percent of programmers ranked remote work as one of the most important benefits, ranking it higher than health care, work hours and professional development.
It’s also a flexible career path. Software developers can climb the career ladder to become a senior developer or architect. They can specialize in one skill or language. Or they can start their own companies.
In addition, the field is constantly changing, with dozens of programming languages being used, and emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, progressive web apps (PWAs), low-code development and cybersecurity all poised to create more jobs. Start a career in software development, and you won’t be bored—you’ll be constantly keeping up…which probably explains why “willingness to learn” is the number one criteria when hiring developers.
Software Development: A Good Choice for All
Obviously, all the reasons given above are equally applicable to men who are considering a software development career—not just women. Who wouldn’t want a good-paying job in a fast-growing field with a low barrier to entry and plenty of flexibility and challenge? But for women who are still under-represented in the field, at only 18 percent of software developers in the U.S., more encouragement is needed. And we need to look to the future. We need women in software development now so our daughters will have mentors in the field when they grow up. They will see other women succeeding, and know they can too. And then we can finally kiss that gender disparity good-bye for good.