NPR’s Women in Technology and Why We Shouldn’t “Dumb Down” Tech Jobs

NPR WIT posterOn March 7 I was invited to participate in a Twitter chat about Women in technology as part of a series by NPR’s Tell Me More radio news program. NPR asked Carletta Hurt, an Oglethorpe alumna who works in the field of education to share her day on Twitter in order to give young women a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman working in the field of technology. She then chose several other women with similar backgrounds to have a one hour Twitter chat about their experiences, and that’s where I fit in. It was my first Twitter chat and I was super excited about the opportunity. The conversation went very well and I am happy I was able to share my opinions and experiences to help inspire young women to enter the STEM field in their future careers.

View the story “NPR’s Women in Technology Twitter Chat” on Storify

However, when I was contacted with this opportunity, I was a little surprised, and had to stop and think for a minute before realizing, yes, I am a woman working in the field of technology. I have experience in social media management, Google Analytics and web development, among other things. It was then that I realized how much of a problem that is. The lines dividing such fields as technology and communication are increasing being blurred. College-aged young women (and many others) may assume that working in the “field of technology” means sitting behind a computer writing HTML all day long. And while some people certainly do that, the vast majority of those working in the field do not. They are writing, planning, strategizing, and then figuring out which tools can help them get the job done. These tools are being invented every day and people who need them are deciding how they will be used.

Yosr works as a consultant for an export promotion agency

College students today will use technology in their future jobs. And I don’t mean sending email and having a Facebook account; I mean understanding what CPC means, knowing basic WordPress shortcodes, and figuring out which of the amazing array of story telling tools  fits their needs the best. We need to make sure they understand that having a basic knowledge of these types of skills can go a very long way in their careers. And do you know what I’ve found? Many college students (male and female) have these types of skills already and don’t realize how valuable they are. “Oh, I’ve made a few videos,” they’ll say, or “Yeah, I manage my fraternity’s website”, like it’s no big deal. And it isn’t – but it is. They might only have basic skills and experience in these areas, but they are miles ahead of their competition who doesn’t. They are already “working in the field of technology” and they don’t realize it.

I was sent a handful of questions the day before the Twitter chat in order to prepare some Twitter-length answers ahead of time. One question really bothered me and I haven’t been able to shake the frustration I felt when I read it. It was: “Do you find that job descriptions are too technical and discourage women from applying?” While I understand the good intentions behind this question, it insinuates that job descriptions should be “dumbed down” in order to encourage more women to apply, and that is just plain sexist. Anyone who comes across language in a job description that they are unfamiliar with can easily look it up. I like to read tech blogs such as Mashable and Tech Crunch and I’ve had look things up so much in the past few years that Wikipedia is always at the top of my browser history. And most of the time I know what the term is referring to, it was just a matter of learning the lingo. We don’t need to change the rules because we want more women working in tech jobs. It’s a male dominated field. Would it be nice to have a bigger female presence in these types of jobs? Certainly. It would also be nice to have more male teachers, but we’ve come to accept that education, especially in the primary years, is a field populated mostly by women.

I am 100% behind encouraging women to pursue a career in the field of technology. The first step is showing them the wide range of positions in the industry that are of interest to them, and helping them realize that they already have some of the skills to help them succeed. What I don’t think we should do is push to hire more women just so we have more women in the field. That doesn’t make sense. Hire the person who is most qualified and if it’s a man, then it’s a man. We have already started to see an increasing trend of females in tech jobs, and over time I’m confident that those numbers will continue to grow. The field of technology is a new world that is still being explored and we just need to give women time to pick out the right boots for the trip. (how’s that for sexist?)

Image “Yosr works as a consultant for an export promotion agency” by World Bank Photo Collection, CC 2.0.

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