Women in Tech: Shaping the Future

As Robots & Pencils celebrates 15 years in business this year – and Women’s History Month this March, we reflect on the journey that has brought us to where we are today and the many women of tech who have helped us get here. From the start, women have been vital to our growth and the development of innovative solutions for our clients. In fact, one of our two co-founders (and the original pencil!) was a female. Since then, many talented women have joined our ranks and made their marks in leadership and individual contributor roles.

However, the story of our tech company has not historically been the norm. While the history of women in technology is full of perseverance, innovation, and progress, many obstacles have hindered women’s full participation and recognition in the field. As we stand at the cusp of a new era, it’s crucial to acknowledge our past and understand our present. Only then can we envision a future where diversity is not just encouraged but celebrated as a cornerstone of innovation.

Reflecting on Our Roots

The history of women in technology is rich with figures who defied the norms of their times. These pioneers contributed foundational work in computing and engineering. From Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, to Grace Hopper, who developed the first user-friendly software programs in the 20th century, women have been instrumental in shaping the technology landscape. Despite their contributions, for too long, women’s roles were marginalized and their achievements overshadowed.

The late 20th and early 21st centuries marked a turning point, with more women entering STEM fields and making significant strides in tech. However, the journey has been far from smooth. Women have faced a myriad of challenges, from gender bias and a culture that can be unwelcoming to females to a lack of representation as women look up the leadership ladder.

The Present Landscape for Women in Tech

Today’s tech industry is more diverse than it was decades ago. Still, women only account for approximately one-third of the tech workforce. That number drops further in technical and leadership positions. The reasons are complex and multifaceted, from societal and cultural norms to policies and practices within the industry itself.

More than ever, there’s a growing movement to change the narrative. Initiatives to close the gender gap, such as STEM education programs for girls, mentorship programs, and women-led tech startups and VC funds, are gaining momentum. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of diversity, not just as a moral imperative but as a business one. Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and perform better financially. 

Envisioning a Better Future

Looking to the future, we are optimistic about the impact of women in tech. Technology is at the heart of societal transformation, and the need for diverse perspectives will be critical as society confronts global challenges. Here are some specific ways we see the future of women in tech evolving.

Increased Representation: STEM education efforts and increased adult learning options will translate to more women entering the tech workforce. We anticipate an increase in the number of women not just in entry-level positions, but in senior leadership roles and fields like AI, machine learning, and cybersecurity.

Policy and Practice Changes: Companies with inclusive policies and practices, including flexible working arrangements that support work-life balance, will attract more female candidates. Mentorship programs are also becoming more common, providing women with increased guidance and opportunities to advance their careers.

Women Leading Innovation: Women will not continue to not only participate in the tech industry but lead some of the most significant innovations. Female tech entrepreneurs will be at the forefront of developing groundbreaking technologies and solutions that create a better world.

Advice for Women in Tech

At our women in innovation events, our speakers often advise attendees to both seek and provide mentorship. The guidance and support of someone who has navigated the world you’re facing can be invaluable. Equally, by mentoring others, you help to build a more inclusive and supportive tech community.

Another refrain is to stay curious. The tech field is constantly evolving. Continuous learning is key to staying ahead. Embrace challenges as opportunities to grow, and never underestimate the value of your unique perspective. 

Finally, advocate for yourself and others. Be vocal about your achievements and the contributions of other women in tech. Change happens when people collectively raise their voices to highlight injustices and push for progress.

The future of women in tech is bright, but realizing it requires a concerted effort from individuals, organizations, and society. Together, let’s commit to breaking down those barriers that remain and building a tech industry that is truly inclusive, equitable, and representative of the world it serves.