While there’s much to celebrate about the Most Powerful Women list compiled by Fortune, there is still much more that needs to be done. Although women have significantly increased their representation in the highest economic echelons, only 4 percent of the CEO’s in Fortune’s top 1,000 companies are female.
Though much has been made of the gender gap in educational achievement, men continue to control and dominate the most important industries, especially technology. Women, despite earning higher grades, seem to be educating themselves for occupations that systematically pay less. While women now earn more college degrees than men over all, they lag in STEM fields ” particularly computer science and engineering, where they earn less than 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees.
So what are we to do?
Firstly, it is important to get women interested in math and science.
Mentorship programs geared towards young females play a significant role in encouraging women to enter these heavily male dominated fields. Virtual programs including the recently launched Women in Technology Sharing Online (WitsOn) and BrainCake connect successful women to young females interested in the STEM fields. These relationships do a lot to combat both internal biases and external misperceptions in the STEM field. While recent studies have proven that discriminatory behaviors toward women in the field exist, a seasoned mentor can provide young women with the tools and lessons to prosper. Exposure to women with both brains and beauty can also fight against the notion of being a “nerdy” and uncool industry (see Birchbox and Marissa Mayer!)
And what can you do if you’re long gone and graduated from college? Luckily (and thankfully!!) there are online and offline resources to help sharpen your digital savvy. Websites like Codecademy offer free and fun coding lessons. Coursera allows you to drop into a class and study with some of the world’s renowned professors (I’ve signed up for an Programming Languages with Dan Grossman of the University of Washington.) Offline communities including GirlDevelopIt, Black Girls Code, and the NY Tech Women build skills as well as networks. I encourage you to follow my Twitter list for extraordinary women in tech who are doing tons to #changetheratio.
New technologies and scientific breakthroughs are shaping the future of almost every industry. Ever heard about big data? It’s all the rage right now. These initiatives are paving the way for future advancements. Women need to take their rightful seat at the table and bring their talents into the mix. While us women have come a long way, we still have plenty more to go until we eliminate a most powerful women list and instead are just seen as equally powerful.