Reshaping how we tell a story can be difficult if we are really tied to how we tell it. Sometimes, the stories we use for a cause or a belief are no longer relevant. They have to be changed and trust that a new narrative can hold as much weight for the cause. I find that how we tell the story of women in tech is going through this type of metamorphosis.

Within the changing landscape of work and the growth of our startup economy, we are seeing more and more female tech founders. The emergence of these founders is fantastic, but just 3% of all tech startups are led by women, according to a Kauffman Foundation report. So, there is definitely room for growth.

If you’re a woman working or studying in the field of technology, it’s likely you’re very familiar with the situation of being the only female in the room. I’ve found myself in similar situations in the entrepreneurial community, and it makes you wonder why this is the case – and perhaps more importantly, what can we do to change it?

Research has shown that grade school is where many girls make the switch from thinking computers are “cool” to thinking “they’re not for me,” so finding ways to reach out at a young age is crucial. But, of course, that doesn’t mean the efforts have to stop there. Here are a few ways that you can help women advance in technology – from elementary education on up!
  1. Encourage your daughters, granddaughters, and nieces. Look in your own life for young girls that you can help get excited about technology.
  2. Target females. If you are in the technology field, encourage your company to look at untapped opportunities in the female market. Whether you’re developing gadgets or video games, you can find ways to better meet women’s needs.
  3. Teach. In some cases, women were not provided with the same opportunities to pursue education in technological fields. This is particularly true in third world countries, but it’s also the case here in the U.S. where men are more often encouraged to tinker with computers. If you have expertise, offer free or inexpensive classes to women in your area.
  4. Embrace the girl geek. Another reason that women don’t pursue technological fields is the stigma of being labeled a “geek” or a “nerd.” In fact, that’s the reason many women are turned off by many “masculine” professions, such as science and math. Watch out for the ways that you contribute to these negative stereotypes – and work to create new, positive ones.
  5. Find female role models. Women like Felicia Day, Ada Lovelace, and Marie Curie are starting to turn the image of the “girl geek” around, and you can also turn to fiction for role models: Agatha Clay, Meg Murry, and Kaylee Frye. Show the young girls in your life that they can be proud to be called a geek!
  6. Network. The unfortunate reality in many situations is that who you know often trumps what you know. Don’t let the technology fields become just a boy’s club. Join an existing networking event or create your own!
  7. Attend a Geek Girl Dinner. This is one networking event that has been going on since 2005. It started in London but has expanded throughout the world. Find out if it takes place in your area by visiting their website.
  8. Make a video. Share the story of how you made your way in the technological field and what it means to you. Post it on YouTube to help inspire other women to follow in your path.
  9. Start a blog. Another way you can share your story and encourage others. Share your technical expertise as well as your advice on navigating a male-dominated workplace. And above all, make yourself available to offer advice to your readers when they need it.
  10. Attend trade shows, conferences, and other events. Be visible in your field. Other women will be happy to see their interests represented at these types of events.
  11. Talk to HR. Encourage your technology company to more actively recruit female college graduates, and find out how you can be a part of the effort.
  12. Bring your daughter to work. Or your niece or your neighbor’s daughter. Make the offer known on your social networks, so any girl who might be interested can take advantage of the opportunity to see first-hand what it’s like to work in the field.
  13. Start a mentoring program. If you’re already mentoring someone, take it one step further and encourage others to participate. Often, people just don’t know how to get started or aren’t sure how mentoring works. Mentor these potential mentors, and get them out there helping others!
  14. Encourage an interest in math, music, and analyzing things. It isn’t just computer science classes that end up guiding people to a career in this field, and these particular subjects have connections to those who pursue a technological career in the future.
  15. Put your money where your mouth is. Create a contest or a scholarship in a technological field that is only for women. Even a prize of a thousand dollars or a few hundred can motivate young women to pursue their interests in this field and make a difference for their future.
  16. Recognize efforts and achievements. This is especially effective if you are successful in your field. Having your work recognized by someone you admire – even if it’s as simple as receiving a compliment via email – can do so much to inspire you to continue.
  17. Spread the word. Lend your support to public service announcements and other campaigns that are working towards the same goal. Use your social networks – both online and offline – to help them reach a wider audience.
  18. Join the outreach. Many universities and colleges have programs designed to encourage female interest in technology. Find out what programs exist in your area and see how you can help.
  19. Have women interview women. Often when a woman applies for a technological job, she is confronted by only male interviewers, which may make her think twice before accepting the position. Will she be comfortable as the only female? When possible, find a female interviewer who can participate in the process and answer the applicant’s questions about the work environment.
  20. Make women feel welcome. Just last month at the Google I/O conference, controversy erupted over something seemingly simple: t-shirts. They offered one-gender-fits-all shirts, which were, of course, actually in men’s sizes. Not surprisingly, this didn’t make the female participants feel very welcome. Consider how small things that your company does can help encourage or alienate women.

Want 7 more ways to help advance women in tech? Read my post from last year on the topic.

Want to know why you should invest in women. Check out these stats:

But what do you think? Do you think we are doing enough to help level the playing field? Do you think that we are tied to the same old story, or is it possible that these younger female founders don’t know the struggles of the past and are really just focused on telling their story and doing what they love? I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts below.

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7 Ways to Help Women in Technology

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Having it All: Feminism and the Career Woman

Image:  http://www.rogerwendell.com/

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