Reshma Saujani thinks Nailah Abdullah is all that, particularly if she majors in computer science.
Saujani is CEO of Girls Who Code, the national nonprofit focused on more women into computer science. Abdullah is a senior at Minneapolis South High School who shared the podium with Saujani last week.
They addressed closing the gender gap in technology, the value of internships and more before an audience of 600 Twin Cities business, civic and education leaders at the annual luncheon of AchieveMpls, the Minneapolis Public Schools support organization that connects with business and others.
Abdullah is unsure of her college major. Regardless, she’s technologically proficient thanks to classes and programs she’s taken since middle school.
“I’m trained in basic skills, and you need to learn technology to get by in this technological world,” Abdullah said.
Minnesota is a top-10 state in technology and science businesses, according to the most recent two-year study of the Milken Institute, released last week. It cited the state’s strong tech workforce and strong investment in human capital.
Minnesota compared favorably for a strong tech workforce, the percentage of graduate students in science and engineering programs, and the number of computer and information scientists per 100,000 workers. Computer scientists and software developers have been in steadily rising demand as Minnesota organizations depend increasingly on technology in communications, manufacturing and analysis. The state has added 21,000 professional, scientific and technical jobs over the past five years.
However, the growth in technology jobs is missing a key ingredient: women.
The share of women in the U.S. computing workforce will decline from 24 percent to 22 percent by 2025, according to a report released last week by consulting firm Accenture and Girls Who Code. Steps recommended in the report to encourage girls to pursue a computer science education could triple the number of women in computing to 3.9 million. That would grow the female share of technology jobs from 24 percent to 39 percent by 2025.
There are many reasons bright girls seem to lose interest in technology.
The report, “Cracking the Gender Code,” measured how the factors influencing girls’ pursuit of computer sciences change at each stage of their education and recommended a more tailored and sequenced series of actions starting in junior high school and sustained through high school and college. That, Accenture estimated, would increase the pipeline of women to 3.9 million by 2025. And boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 billion.
Saujani called the report a rallying cry to invest in programs designed for girls, such as her in-school clubs and summer camps that reach about 40,000 girls, from North Community High to the University of Minnesota, in partnership with schools and businesses.
“This is important,” she said. “You have a lot of technology companies here. There’s upward mobility in these jobs. It’s not gender parity for parity sake only. There’s an economic driver. After all, the pioneers of computer science were women.”
Not everybody needs a degree in computer science to contribute and make a living in technology fields. There are a number of growing short-term training and other certificate programs, from two years to eight weeks, that are bringing entry-level reinforcements into a field that is attracting more women and minorities, according to state employment statistics. Jim Wolford, the CEO of Atomic Data, who has been cited for his employment efforts recently, said diversity of gender and race also leads to greater innovation and success.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.