Women in Technology

6 Min Read

As a leader in technology training, Sunset Learning keeps up with trends in the technology industry. This includes diversity in the workplace. It’s no secret that female representation in technology is lacking. What are the causes of this and how can we encourage young women to pursue careers in technology?


Bringing More Women into Technology


Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology, has recently worked to pass legislation in Colorado and Washington that will “create a one-of-a-kind grant program to bring minority students into computer science for public schools that report data on the diversity of their computer science classrooms.” Although Colorado has over 15,000 jobs open in technology, women only make up less than 30% of the technology workforce. The increased funding of technology programs in schools is hoped to encourage young women to consider technology as a career.

SLI technical instructors, Maren Mahoney and Yasmin Lara, started working with technology in middle school and didn’t stop there. However, that isn’t the case for most girls. According to a survey, “girls become interested in tech careers at age 11, but lose interest soon after.” Some of the main factors believed to be responsible for this include a lack of female mentors, peer pressure and gender inequality. Yasmin says, “I want girls who are thinking about what to do after graduating from high school, to truly consider a career in technology. It is an interesting, fun and very rewarding professional world, with endless opportunities, and yes, girls can too work in technology, enjoy it, and be successful!”

One study found out that a lack of support from parents and teachers is also a reason why young girls steer away from an interest in technology. Parental support is key to a successful career. Yasmin Lara thanks her dad for his support. She says, “I was lucky that my Dad had absolutely no concept in his mind of ‘girls don’t do those things’ so he had no problem with me using his tools or trying to fix stuff around the house.”


Adversity in the Workplace

There are many forms of adversity that women in technology face including pay gaps, biases, fears of sexual harassment, caretaker expectations, and much more.

Maren commented, “The biggest adversity I’ve faced in professional business is a pay gap. At three different companies, I found out I was being paid less than men in my same position.” Maren isn’t the only one to experience this. Women in STEM make an average of $16,000 less than their male counterparts. This is a major deterrent for Womenwomen interested in technology as a career.

Biases based on gender greatly affect women entering the technology industry. Maren believes she was dismissed from job interviews simply because she is female. She says, “Even though I was overqualified for the position, it was like they were looking for a reason to not consider me for the role.” When she was accepted into a position, she occasionally felt like her credibility was being questioned.  At times she feels that when she’s the only woman in the room, she receives more attention and stands out.

According to a 2017 survey, 78% of females in a technology role said “they’ve been or know someone who’s been sexually harassed.” A way to help prevent this is to have more women in upper-level roles. 60% of companies have an all-male board. In addition, 22% of survey respondents believe wider-spread sensitivity training will also address this issue.

Some businesses view hiring young women as risky because of the seeming inevitability of getting married, having kids, and taking on the role of a caretaker. Although this should never be a reason to reject someone from a job, it unfortunately happens. Yasmin is an example of someone who did both without letting family responsibilities stop her from achieving her career dreams. She says, “I got the CCIP while being a stay-home mom with two boys under 4, which years later blows my own mind when I think about it. The CCIP certification was the card under the sleeve that allowed me to come back to the workforce. The person who hired me wasn’t convinced I could do the job after being away for 3+ years, until I placed my new badge in front of him.” You go, girl!


How We Can Address the Gender Gap

Philanthropic and CSR efforts can increase gender diversity in the tech workforce. Donating to programs with a focus on women and girls in tech can help address the lack of involvement and resources in schools. Tech companies have the opportunity to assist women and girls entering the industry and make technology an exciting career. Seeing the benefit of a diverse workplace and implementing it will make a company unstoppable.

womenBased on research, it seems women in technical positions are very willing to assist novices. Maren makes it a point to offer extra help to female students in the classroom and will take on mentorship roles when she can. When Yasmin was in school, she says, “I ended up being everybody’s tutor. My classmates started to come over to my house to teach them math and physics, and that made me happy.” Supporting women who strive to be in similar positions is important to growth and perseverance through technology education.

Nothing is going to happen overnight, but small steps lead to big changes. The capabilities of people aren’t dependent on gender. Experience, personality, and workplace habits should determine who gets the job. The goal for any business is to have creative, intelligent, and self-motivated individuals. Mixing different perspectives gives the company and other employees the opportunity to grow. Diversity is essential to success because it creates thoughtful perspectives and thorough approaches to problem-solving.


Sunset Learning Female Technical Instructors

Sunset Learning would like to take this opportunity to highlight our two female technical instructors. SLI is very proud of all their accomplishments and is grateful for their dedication to teaching.


Maren Mahoney

Maren Mahoney has been in the information system industry for more than 20 years with roles in employee development, technical support & helpdesk administration, network administration, management, and engineering, networking courseware development, and instruction.

She joined SLI in 2008 as a technical instructor focusing on the unified communications curriculum. In addition to a CCSI, Maren holds current Route/Switch and Data Center certifications and was awarded the CCIE Collaboration certification in 2015. Maren is also a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Maren was named a Cisco Designated VIP in 2019. She achieved this recognition by actively participating in Cisco’s online forums and discussion boards and sharing her IP Telephony expertise.


Yasmin Lara

Yasmin Lara has been in the IT industry for over 20 years with roles including Network and Database Designer and Administrator, Technical Support Engineer, Senior Network Engineer, and Technical Instructor for both Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. She has several years of experience with implementation, technical support, network traffic analysis, and troubleshooting, and creating test plans for new networking projects.

She is currently the Senior Instructor and Director of Juniper Training at Sunset Learning and is delivering classes in the areas of Routing, Switching and Security for the Juniper Service Provider, Enterprise, and Security Certification tracks. In 2019, Yasmin became a Juniper Networks Ambassador! The Juniper Ambassador program recognizes members of the Juniper community, for their strong commitment to help others learn about networking and Juniper Networks Products and Technology, as well as for their technical expertise, passion, and opinions about Juniper Networks.

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