SOUTHFIELD—A new, comprehensive study from the Michigan Council of Women in Technology offers new insights into the state of girls and women in technology – what drives them, what challenges them and what makes them stay.
MCWT interviewed nearly 500 people to produce “Explore, Focus and Grow: A Technology Career Journey in Michigan”—from students in grades 5-8 attending MCWT’s summer science camps, to university students, to working tech professionals, to corporate HR managers.
The survey found that through each life stage, a technology career attracts girls and women with opportunities to create positive impact, solve problems and be creative. As she progresses in college, she is focused on learning and concerned by how a lack of representation will impact her. When established in her career, she becomes motivated by stability and financial rewards, and grows concerned with being valued equally, seizing growth opportunities, and balancing career 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,” said Chris Rydzewski, MCWT executive director. “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.”
Top study findings included:
- Family Members a Primary Influence: Of those surveyed, middle school girls and university students have a family member in tech. While many girls said they interact through technology with peers, few cite them as a source for learning about computing.
- Early Computer Education Sparks Interest: Some girls recall experiences they had in early elementary. More than half of university students cite a computer class teacher as having been very influential in their choice of study.
- Motivations: Helping Others, Creativity, Problem Solving, Learning:Women university students are most excited about the prospect of applying their love for problem solving to improving 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).
- Role Models Address University Student Concerns: University students express concerns about the lack of representation in the field (26 percent) and their own lack of confidence (23 percent).
- Women Seek a Technology Career Path for Security and Personal Fulfillment:Many see the field as growing, providing solid career prospects and a stable demand for talent, while believing tech will provide satisfaction and a sense of personal accomplishment.
- Growth Opportunities Drive Commitment and Success: Professional women consistently highlight four growth opportunities that keep them engaged and motivated: training and development, mentorship, opportunities to lead, and being given new challenges.
- Lack of Representation and Gender Bias Biggest Challenges Facing Young Women: Professional women are most likely to list a lack of representation (34 percent) and gender bias (27 percent). This echoes a concern by female university students.
- Flexible Schedules Can Attract and Retain Talent: Offering flexible schedules is seen as the most effective recruitment tactic by 35% of professional women. It’s also a top mention in ways that employers have encouraged their careers.
- Highlighting Women in Leadership Makes an Impact: Nearly all professional women (95 percent) said highlighting women in leadership positions was very to somewhat effective when recruiting female talent.
- Michigan is Ideal for a Technology Career: Advantages Michigan has over other states include 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%).
MCWT’s vision is to make Michigan the No. 1 state for women in technology. MCWT supports Michigan’s female IT workforce, students, corporate partners, schools and the community with programming, scholarships, networking, learning, mentoring, and technology experiences. Learn more at mcwt.org.