By: J. Bruce Daley
In an era when women are becoming increasingly prominent in medicine, law and business, why are there so few women scientists and engineers? This is not just an academic question. The National Science Foundation estimates five million people work in science, engineering, and technology— just over 4% of the workforce. Even though women hold 56% of all professional jobs in the United States, they account for only 25% of IT jobs.
And the disparity is increasing. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, girls take 46% of all the Advanced Placement Calculus exams but only 19% of AP Computer Science exams. In 2009, 18% of Computing and Information Sciences undergraduatedegrees were awarded to women, in contrast to 1985, when women earned 37% of these degrees.
According to research done by the AAUW, most people associate science and math fields with "male” and humanities and arts fields with "female”. AAUW Research also shows that people judge women to be less competent than men in "male” jobs unless they are clearly successful in their work. When a woman is clearly competent in a "masculine” job, she is considered to be less likable.
To overcome these perceptions, five years ago the Colorado Technology Association created Women-in-Technology (WIT) as a mentoring, networking, and education group for women in the field.
"Even in the year 2011 the equality of women is still not a given," said Emily Rayman, Account Executive with Integra Telecom. "Programs like this one help overcome stereotypical thinking even in an overwhelmingly male dominated profession."
On Thursday night Women-in-Technology (WIT) held a networking benefit event at the 18th Street Atrium for the Women's Bean Project. Over 100 women involved with technology attended. Many of those present were attending for the first time.
"I didn't know a women in technology organization existed in Colorado," said Michelle Lanuza, Account Manager at NetApp.
The event benefited Women's Bean Project, which started as a soup-kit assembly project to help homeless women to develop job skills and good work habits with the hope of making a lasting change in their lives. The project has proved to be successful and over the years the project's annual operating budget has grown from $6,100 to over $1.5 million.
The evening’s entertainment included costumed portrayals of unconventional Women of the West by The Legendary Ladies. The group performd the life stories of a number of famous womenin Colorado past.
The historical examples of women like Calamity Jane and Mary Rippon, who made their own way in life, left a deep impression with attendees of the event.
"Girls rock", said Natalie Cutsforth, Client Solution Executive at .Idea.
Sources: 2010 AAUW "Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" and the National Center for Women & Information Technology.