The media is awash with articles and reports on the progress of women, the role of women, women in the workplace, and much more – you’ve seen it too. It’s even leaking into personal emails between women. The light bulb went on for me today when I clicked on Google and saw the special logo for International Women’s Day. Aha! Hence all the press.
One article that landed in my in-box (thanks DG) was “Where Have All The Role Models For Girls Gone?” by Shelley Emling in the Huffington Post. The article makes a strong connection between the lack of women in STEM fields and the lack of female role models. While all of this may be true, I believe that there’s another factor to be considered as well.
I have an additional theory to put forward. It can stand side-by-side with the role model theory. They may compliment each other. This is based on intuition, general reading and personal experience. No scientific research – at least, none that I know of!
A deeper dive into a more technical field frequently does not demand the interplay and interconnectedness of thinking between sciences and humanities and arts. This ability to connect the dots across these areas is a well known strength and motivated ability in women.
I started my career as a computer programmer. I loved the technical side of that work, but I found myself increasingly seeking ways to expand that field of operation into areas that involved the “softer” side of the business. For me there was an attraction to the blending and integration of the disparate sides. (That just hit me – interesting that in technical fields we call all that other “stuff” the “soft stuff”!) That lead me to weaving areas like Knowledge Management, Change Management, Cultural Awareness training, and Virtual Teaming into my bread and butter technical work – or the “harder” side of the job.
Could it also be that the straight technical work simply does not offer the inter-disciplinary composition that would attract more women? When you are young and working at the “apprentice” level it is hard to see how that richer tapestry can be woven into your technical work. It took me 10+ years to even comprehend that I needed more and figure out how to get it. Many may give up long before then without the good fortune of awareness and opportunity.
Maybe that’s where more mentoring and role modeling should be focused?
What do you think?