The share of women in the U.S. computing workforce will decline from 24 percent to 22 percent by 2025, according to research last fall from Accenture and national nonprofit Girls Who Code. However, successfully creating programs to encourage girls to pursue a computer science education could triple the number of women in computing, growing their share of technology jobs from 24 percent today to 39 percent in the same timeframe, according to the report.
That’s why I was interested to read earlier this week that General Motors and Girls Who Code (GWC) announced a partnership to, as they explained, “inspire and empower” thousands of U.S. middle and high school girls to become future leaders in these fields. Through the partnership, girls from underserved communities will gain “increased access to computer science education, sisterhood, mentorship and projects that demonstrate the real-world impact of computing” through a model that significantly increases young girls’ interest in pursuing technology and engineering degrees, GM and GWC announced. GM is giving a $250,000 grant to expand GWC’s Clubs programs, which provide free after-school activities in schools, universities and community centers.
“Becoming an engineer paved the way for my career,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “It’s one of the reasons I am passionate about promoting STEM education to students everywhere. Partnering with Girls Who Code is one more step in GM’s commitment to inspiring and growing diverse future leaders. I’m extremely proud that some of GM’s top female leaders will spend time with the students, teaching them about the possibilities and rewards of a STEM education.”
The demand for computing skills far outstrips supply, creating a talent shortage for U.S. employers. In 2015, there were more than 500,000 open computing jobs to be filled in the U.S., but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them, the Accenture/GWC report notes. The untapped potential of women to fill these roles has significant implications for U.S competitiveness.
Indeed, programs designed specifically to spark and maintain girls’ interest from middle school into the workforce could triple the number of women in the computing workforce in the next 10 years, Accenture and GWC predict. Consequently, partnerships such as that announced by GM/GWC with a tailored and sequenced series of actions could not only increase the pipeline of women to 3.9 million by 2025, but also boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 billion, the report explains.
“While we’re proud of our progress to-date in closing the gender gap in technology, our work is just getting started,” says Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. “It’s never been a more urgent time to help our girls succeed in technology and engineering. We need more of our daughters to become engineers like Mary Barra, not just because these are goods jobs, but because having diverse thinkers in these roles makes our companies more innovative and competitive. I’m thrilled that our partnership with GM will help thousands of girls get access to top jobs, and they’ll get to shape the products and services we use every day.”
What are your thoughts on promoting computer science—or STEM, for that matter—for girls in middle and high school? Are you aware of any such programs in your community?