When it comes to women in the workforce, society and the media traditionally place them in nurturing or social fields such as nursing, teaching, or administration positions. With time and a savvy business acumen, that stereotype is changing as we are seeing a shift in women joining fields that are traditionally held by men. In the United States, only twenty percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are held by women. As technology begins to take over every aspect of our personal and business lives, it only seems natural that more women would, in one way or another, find themselves embracing the field, and allowing their own career paths to lead them toward technology.
The Tables are Turning
“When I was growing up there was a scarcity of women in leadership and highly visible positions in STEM, other than women teaching science and math—and even then, the men outnumbered the women in those departments,” explained Carrie Borchers, director of sales at IT Resource. “Today, we have Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard CEO), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo! CEO), and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) all over the news, so it will be interesting to see if this plants seeds of opportunity in young minds."
As more women fall into the technology field, whether it be on purpose or by way of a happy accident, we will see more of a shift. Amanda Regnerus, vice president, marketing, US Signal Company, explains that historically woman have worked in help or service industries. “I'm sure statistically, there are less than twenty percent of jobs in the service industry that are held by men. As time goes on and we continue to move toward gender equality in the workplace, these numbers may even themselves out.”
Perhaps another reason we see such an unbalance in the workforce is because of the gender roles created by media and other family members. Kim Helmers, sales and marketing assistant at IT Resource, explains that if women follow the career paths of other females in their lives (sisters, mothers, etc.) who held positions in healthcare or retail, they may have a lack of interest in the technology fields simply because of what they were exposed to at home.
Is Gender a Barrier?
Being the minority in your field can come with its own set of struggles, but the outcome is directly related to how you handle the situation. Lori Brandt, help desk manager at IT Resource, fell into technology, then followed up her self-learned knowledge with a related college degree in the field. She explains that she feels her degree validates her knowledge, but the path didn’t come without resistance. “I don’t feel that I had many struggles once I made the decision to base my career in technology. Doors were always open to me, but they did not open on their own. I had to make the effort to go to the door and open it.”
Most of the women I spoke to did not see their gender as being a barrier for their success in this field. In fact, a few even pointed out that it’s not so bad being the minority. “When I go to an event or environment when there are one or two women and fifty to sixty men, it’s a lot easier for people to remember me, as opposed to one of the many ties and flys,” said Borchers.
Along those same lines, Regnerus indicated that she thinks it’s a great opportunity to be a part of a field that is always evolving, growing, changing, and continually challenging you to learn new things. “I love the field of technology and don't look at my gender as a barrier. But, that's just me; I don't really look at anything outside of myself as a barrier to success.”
I began to see a common trend among these women. All successful in their own right, and each understanding the skills it takes to succeed in the workforce. Molly Reid, senior account executive at IT Resource, explains that in a field that requires a plethora of skills to survive, she is happy to be someone who can critically think to handle problem-solving, decision-making, and analysis for her customers. “I love to see a client that has a problem, get it resolved, and know that the engineers and I helped so that they can focus on making their business thrive,” said Reid.
Check back next week as we explore the opportunities for women in an ever-changing field and how women can make a statement with their new "tech geek" image!
Written by: Andrea Snyder is co-owner of STUDIO3TWENTY, a West Michigan-based marketing firm specializing in consulting, graphic design, and website development. Find them online at www.STUDIO3TWENTY.COM. Contributors: Carrie Borchers, director of sales, IT Resource; Lori Brandt, help desk manager, IT Resource; Kim Helmers, sales & marketing assistant, IT Resource; Catherine Lazarock, president, Symplicity Communications, Inc.; Amanda Regnerus, vice president, marketing, US Signal Company; Molly Reid, senior account executive, IT Resource; Sarah Van Elderen, marketing & event Coordinator, US Signal Company. Photo: stock.xchng