Women in Tech: Profiles in Persistence

Article By : Junko Yoshida

EE Times will shine a spotlight on "women in tech" in our special edition, illustrating the technical achievements, leadership and integrity demonstrated by female engineers and scientists.

For all the years I’ve worked for EE Times, I often avoided story assignments about “women engineers.” I was afraid that covering this beat would pigeonhole me as a girl reporter whose moral and editorial focus is more about feminism than technology.

There are times when the tightrope cuts into my feet. When I cover an industry meeting or conference as a reporter, I often find myself the only woman in the room. It’s not that I’m intimidated by it. I’ve always been outnumbered by men in my career, and I’ve been able to overlook that imbalance by reminding myself that if I’m in the room, I’ve broken the gender line. I know that the best way to stay on the right side of that line is to be diligent and professional, with the hope that my work will speak for itself.

Consciously or unconsciously, I’ve chosen to be gender-blind. I convinced myself that my intrusion into the male-dominant tech world had gone unnoticed because most engineers tend to be oblivious about the gender gap.

Looking back, I realize I was wrong.

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Click here for larger image

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Click here for larger image

The fact remains that women’s continued minority status in the tech world is no happenstance. Nor is it because women are not interested.

More important, most male engineers are clearly untroubled by the shortage of female engineers in technology/product development projects. Engineering has always been “a guy thing.” Girls wouldn’t understand and, some might even say that they couldn’t offer any notable improvements.

Call me naïve but I was a little surprised to hear some of our more vocal readers point to biological and emotional gender differences as the reason for women’s underrepresentation in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. They concede that girls and young women might be just as able as young men. But they reason that despite a number of incentives — The Girls in STEM movement, for example — there are fewer female engineers in the workplace because women are just not as interested in science and engineering.

Fashion, yes. FinTech, no.

This is a false narrative popular among corporations who choose not to hire engineers of certain age because age differences allegedly render older engineers slower and less interested in embracing rapid technology changes, even though they might be wiser.

At issue is if we see such hiring and workplace practices — whether the focus is on gender, age or another largely irrelevant factor — as important enough for the tech world to reckon with?

Or is this a problem that needs no fixing?

EE Times believes it is. Instead of promoting the status quo, we plan to first shine a spotlight on “women in tech.” We’re calling this special edition “Profiles in Persistence.” We will illustrate in these pages the technical achievements, leadership and integrity demonstrated by female engineers and scientists.

We will focus on people who have defied accepted norms — that “women aren’t just interested in science and engineering” or “not fit for leading” — and became trailblazers.

Invisible women in tech
Our goal with this special edition is making visible the invisible women in technology.

We are currently soliciting names, and recommendations from you, the tech industry at large, and our own global editorial board. We hope to cover a broader beachfront for “women in tech” using these criteria. We’re looking for women who:
-Have tangible tech/engineering achievements
-Have shown leadership in the industry (beyond the company or companies they’ve worked for)
-Have played a key role in mentoring and advancing young engineers

We’re also seeking “Non-engineering” women who have made stellar contributions to engineering projects, women investors, and rising stars.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please click here, take our survey and send in your recommendations. The deadline for submission of names is set at Sept. 30th.

— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times Circle me on Google+

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