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Last summer I was invited by Microsoft to attend a program offered by their diversity department called Digigirlz. At first I was skeptical, so I did some research and found out that Digigirlz was focused on encouraging girls to pursue careers in technology, an industry dominated by men. My research also helped me realize that women are greatly underrepresented in the technology world. As an enthusiastic girl interested in technology, I think this is a problem. I believe there needs to be more diversity throughout the industry, and I want to make a difference.
Diversity problems can be seen not only in the technology industry, but also throughout large companies. Statistically, men dominate the high-level, white-collar, professional world. In 2008, there were only 12 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Steve Jobs of Apple, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Paul S. Otellini of Intel are the people that drive our mainstream technology industry, and it is no surprise that they are all men. In a study performed by Roper Starch Worldwide for Deloitte & Touche, 1,500 technology industry professionals were polled on how they felt about the work environment and position they were in. The study showed that 84% of women felt that there was a glass ceiling hanging over their heads, a level in the workplace that they were not ever going to surpass. Also, 71% of the women stated that they believed that men were favored when it came to wage. This data illustrates that women in the technology industry feel they are not as valuable as their male co-workers.
I can identify with this feeling of the glass ceiling and inequality from some of my high school experiences. I work as the head of the Sound and Light crew, a group of students who are in charge of running all technology aspects of student-organized events. During my first year on the Sound and Light crew, I was one of two girls. The boys ran the show. I continuously demonstrated my skill and knowledge, yet all the boys allowed me to do was to get bottled water or carry things to and from different locations. They honestly believed that I was not as skilled or knowledgeable as they were. I did not enjoy the busy work jobs at all – the main reason I joined the crew was to be able to work with technology, not just around it.
After that first year, I was determined to change things. I began taking a leadership role as a sophomore. I took charge in the setup of events; I knew how to run the technical aspects, and often ended up doing all of the technology work such as the setup of all audio and projection systems. The boys on the crew began to realize that I was intelligent and that I knew what I was talking about when it came to technology. I became more respected and I felt like people listened to my opinions and suggestions more closely. Now, as a senior, I lead students through learning about all the aspects involved in producing great school-related events. My knowledge and skill are finally being recognized, something that took me three years to earn.
Through my work with the Sound and Light crew, and experience troubleshooting computer problems for teachers, I work side-by-side with the four men who make up my school’s IT department to solve technology problems. By working with the Sound and Light Crew and with the technology office, I have seen firsthand that there is no difference in ability when it comes to females or males in the technology field. Therefore, I find it very unreasonable that there is such a problem with the domination of males in the technology industry. This problem is one of my concerns and one that has been put on my list of things to help fix in this world. It is my goal to educate women about their potential and encourage more females to get involved, bringing in much needed diversity to an otherwise homogeneous culture.
In order to share my views and mission regarding this topic, I plan to reach out to females in my community by inviting and encourage them to join in various science and technology clubs. For example, this year, I will be leading a crew of students in the creation of a video for a retreat that is held every year for the freshman class. I have made the commitment to myself and to the technology office that the crew will contain at least four girls. By getting more girls involved, I hope to be able to strike a fire and help other females discover a love for technology, possibly help others find out what they really want to do in life, and help them learn the steps that are needed to achieve their goals. If I can inspire and empower two people, they can do that for four more, and the pattern continues. It is time to start the chain reaction of females encouraging each other to get more involved, and to show the technology industry and white-collar world that females are just as smart and capable as men, maybe even more so.
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