The technology world is abuzz with great minds, great innovators, and great…men?
According to an official Google blog post from this morning, women hold less than one third of the world’s engineering gigs, despite the female sex making up more than half of the global population. Moreover, fewer than 15 percent of United States female students take Advanced Placement computer science tests. The same rule goes for high-tech regions of the world, such as Israel.
The breach between males and females in the technology industry leaves room for controversy, and such dissension reared its head at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The annual event featured scantily clad “booth babes” hired by some companies to promote their —well— booths. The practice led many to wonder if it is an effective marketing strategy or a reflection on gender gaps in technology.
The hot issue further propelled when ZDNet posted a picture of a female developer at CES 2012, but the publication referred to her as “The Saddest Booth Babe In The World” due to her somewhat emotionless face during the moment the photograph was snapped. Critics lambasted the photo caption because the woman looked nothing like a typical show booth babe, but rather a bored developer with no one around for presenting.
A female group of engineers at Google in Israel is determined to resolve this widespread setback in the industry by encouraging women to enter the technology realm. Google initiated the “Mind the Gap!” program in 2008 with the Israeli National Center for Computer Science Teachers to embolden girls with technology, science, and math-centric education. The program establishes monthly school visits to the Google’s Israel office and tech conferences at various universities to help the girls learn technology, computer science, and its applications…
The 2.5-hour Google office visits consist of a talk about the Google search engine, a panel of female engineers, and a tour of the office. The environment also allows the students to communicate with current female engineers and discover the work field’s environment.
“The reactions were overwhelming. The girls leave our office energized and motivated to study CS, and they all want to work for Google,” Google explained on the program’s website.
Tel Aviv University held the most recent program conference. The Computer Science in the Real World talk by Software Engineer at Google’s R&D Center in Israel Michael Segalov, and the panel discussion, is available online for viewing through their respective links.
“Since we started this program over three years ago, we’ve hosted more than 1,100 teenage girls at our office, and an additional 1,400 girls at three annual conferences held in leading universities,” wrote Segalov. “These 2,500 students represent 100 schools from all sectors and from all over the country: Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tira, Beer-Sheva, Jerusalem, Nazareth and more; what they have in common is the potential to become great computer scientists.”
Segalov further described the program’s results as “encouraging,” with 40 percent of participating girls later choosing computer science as a high school major. He also said Mind the Gap! Is currently working with the Google in Education program to widen its reach around the world.
Such programs are increasing female numbers in the technology industry slowly but surely, so that maybe one day the gap will bubble with talent versus controversy.