Women in tech: Paving the way for the next generation

Recently, Hyland had the privilege of working with Crain’s Cleveland Business on an article that focuses on a cause we care about deeply: Women in tech. Crain’s talked to a handful of high-ranking local women in tech who said they feel a responsibility to do what they can to make sure girls and women see opportunities for themselves in high-tech industries.

Brenda Kirk, Hyland’s executive vice president and chief product and strategy officer, is a huge proponent of helping young women get into the tech field, so she was a natural fit for the story. Recently, I sat down with her to talk more about this challenging topic.

“Attracting, retaining, and enabling women in technology at every level is a massive and worthy opportunity,” said Kirk. “As a society, we have a huge responsibility to engage meaningfully in the communities where we live and work to encourage women to consider technology careers at every level.”

It’s important, because, as the Crain’s article notes, as of 2015, women filled only 24 percent of U.S. jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math fields – even though they held 47 percent of all U.S. jobs, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Commerce Women in STEM report.

Setting an example

“The best way to realize this vision is to take action,” Kirk told me. “To engage with and focus on the communities where we live and work. This engagement has to drive a change in curriculum in our schools to expose technology not just to a select few, but to the masses, as early as possible.”

Kirk also noted that things like a single, shared “tech cart” for an entire grade or even an entire school is a great step forward. But it’s a tiny step in a massive climb.

24%

Percent of women in STEM in U.S.

“We’re behind. Way behind,” she said. “And for our girls, we’re abysmally behind. These are barriers worth knocking down, and together we can.”

The article does a great job of mentioning that many jobs in the tech field don’t fit the stereotype of “an antisocial guy who’d rather stare at a computer than have a conversation.”

In reality, the tech world has many women leaders. And women at all levels in their organizations who serve as examples of what we can accomplish.

But we need to do more.

“For our girls, we need to get out there and mentor them, show them what’s possible, and help them develop curiosity in technology and confidence in their potential,” said Kirk. “For those of us women who have built our careers in technology, we need to live as a power of example.”

Kirk also noted that tech companies need to dedicate talent to making this shift a reality. Create engagement opportunities, offer internships, develop shadowing programs, provide scholarships, host hackathons, and sponsor innovation challenges.

“There is so much we can, and in many cases are doing, but not enough of us are taking action,” said Kirk. “What if we did?”

Together we can

At Hyland, we’re proud of our women’s groups, employee volunteers who teach coding in local schools, and our Hy-Tech Camps for kids as young as middle school. Despite these efforts, Kirk believes we still need more perspective, more diversity. Diversity that women and minorities achieve by taking a seat at the table.

“To accomplish this, we need to build STEM interest groups that appeal to young girls and provide them with cool opportunities and interesting work,” she said. “We need to share the possibilities a career in technology could represent for them. We need to tell more stories and highlight relatable role models.”

Can you imagine a world where a woman staffs one in every two tech jobs?

A world where girls have awesome role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics?

A world where we all work together?

I can.

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Lindsay Latessa

Lindsay Latessa works in the Human Resources department at Hyland as an HR manager, leading the Talent Acquisition and HR Business Partner teams. With 10 years’ experience in the technology industry, Lindsay is proud to support Hyland's talent management initiatives at a FORTUNE’S Best Places to Work company.

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