"[W]omen-operated, venture-backed high tech companies average 12 percent higher annual revenues. They also use on average one-third less capital than male counterparts' startups."
Intel researcher Genevieve Bell assembled a large amount of evidence on these issues and concluded, “[I]t turns out if you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women.”
What is Already Being Done
In 2007, the National Center for Women & Information Technology created a program called “Aspirations in Computing.” It is a recognition and talent-development program for high school girls who demonstrate interest and aspirations in technology. They are accepting applications right now from ninth-to-twelfth-grade girls nationwide. The program is not just looking for girls who do robotics and code today; it’s for all girls who envision technology in their futures.
Award recipients join an exclusive online network that provides long-term mentoring, encouragement, and connections—as well as opportunities, internships, and jobs. Participants connect year-round, both virtually and in-person at their colleges and internships, conferences, and tech events. “These Aspirations alumni are building a powerful network of peers,” said Ruthe Farmer, Director of Strategic Initiatives at NCWIT. “Instead of knowing just a few other women in tech, these girls are connected to thousands. This connectedness not only helps them persist in the field, it makes them a great asset for employers. If you want to hire more technical women, hire one of these girls.”
Last year, over 1,000 young women were inducted into the program at 54 award events nationwide, garnering cash, gadgets, and introductions to top tech leaders like Facebook director of engineering Jocelyn Goldfein. Twelve Aspirations in Computing winners were invited to the White House in 2013, including two presenters at the White House Science Fair.
This year NCWIT plans to recognize as many as 1,200 high school award recipients. Thirty-five girls will be selected as National winners, taking home $500 cash, a laptop, a $1,000 scholarship from VC and NCWIT chair Brad Feld, and a trip to the award ceremony at Bank of America's headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The deadline is October 31, 2013, so if you know a high school girl, ask her, “Have you considered a career in technology—why don’t you check this out?”
Where This Leaves Us
Programs like these will do more than just help the 1,200 women awarded every year; it will also be part of a social and cultural shift in society. There are a number of role models for women in the technology sector, and there are more every year.
Over time, and with investments in programs like this one, role models like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer—along with all the data showing the tangible benefit of having more women work for technology companies overall—will inevitably lead to a tipping point. Average girls in high school will seriously consider a career in technology because it’s exciting, lucrative, and intellectually stimulating. Half of our society cannot be held back from this inevitable progression. The status quo is simply unsustainable.