The LoanBoss team recently had the chance to talk to Dr. Sharon Jones, who heads the Dottie Rose Foundation, a local non-profit that empowers middle school girls with practical technological education. She offered unique insight on what companies can do to close the gender gap in the tech world — and why closing that gap is so important.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the Dottie Rose Foundation and what you do?
We invite middle school girls to learn practical computer science through our camps. During these experiences, they can also see what a typical workday looks like for developers and other tech employees. This helps them understand technology in action and gives them the chance to see what’s new in the tech world.
Q: How can companies like LoanBoss support Dottie Rose?
We are so fortunate to have so many community partners in every sector: government, private, etc. There are really three major ways these companies help.
They offer financial support so girls from every economic background can attend camps.
They help keep our curriculum current by keeping us apprised of what’s new in software development.
They can volunteer to let camp attendees spend part of a day at their workplace so they can see what it’s really like to work in tech.
Q: How would you describe the importance of closing the gender gap in the tech industry?
Well, women have historically been among the first adapters of technology, and they have unique insight to offer. But tech has always been a traditionally male industry, and any time you exclude over 50 percent of the population, you’re going to run into issues. For example, when Apple initially released the Apple Watch, they didn't take into account women’s menstrual cycles, which created a host of issues for female users. It’s not just the tech industry though, girls who understand technology can bring so much valuable insight into any career they choose.
Q: What do you think are some practical solutions companies can implement to help close this gap?
For one, companies should re-evaluate their job descriptions. These are often unintentionally written to appeal to a masculine audience. Secondly, scale up! Open the door for employees you already have to learn. Help staff members — in every area, not just tech — understand the algorithms behind the work they’re doing. Give them the chance to really discover the how and why behind the technology they use. For example, social media content managers are frequently women. The more they understand the algorithms behind the trends they take advantage of, the more successful they can be at their jobs.
Q: Why do you think it's so hard to hire developers right now and what do you think can be done about that?
Simply put, learning to code is not easy. Just like anything else, it takes an incredible amount of time and practice. It’s not something that you can learn to do well, fast. It's also not something you can learn inside and out with a four-year college experience. Apprenticeships and ongoing education are so important in the tech world, because this industry requires hands-on learning.
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