Girls and young women don’t see many examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture. One study found that if girls had as many role models of women inventors as boys do to male inventors, the gender gap in innovation could be cut in half. For example, have you heard of Ada Lovelace or Rosalind Franklin before? Many people don’t know that biggest discoveries that shaped the world as we know it, came from female scientists and that their contribution seems to be pushed aside.
The participation of ladies in the development of IT technologies began with the work of the British pioneer of informatics and programming, Countess Ada Lovelace. Her algorithm is considered to be the first algorithm written specifically for the computer, which gives her the title of the first programmer. She made the greatest contribution to science by developing an analytical machine that is considered the forerunner of the first computers, and with her commitment and vision she paved the way for thousands of women who are today part of the IT industry. Charles Babbage, the British inventor who developed a revolutionary steam-powered calculating machine, was so impressed by her skills that he called her the “enchantress of numbers”. The early programming language Ada was named after her and the second Tuesday in October has become Ada Lovelace Day, on which the contributions of women to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are honoured.
Another example of exceptional female mind is Rosalind Franklin, who was a British scientist best known for her contributions to the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a constituent of chromosomes that serves to encode genetic information. She used to say that “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.”
Their potential, and their passion and vision for technology, have made them powerful symbols for modern women in technology.
The gender gap in Science and IT
Today, the share of women in the IT sector is between 20 and 30 per cent, and it is predicted that in the next 5-10 years this share will amount to as much as 40 per cent! Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations are expected to experience rapid growth in the coming decade. Europe’s gender gap in STEM is especially wide in information and communication technologies. Achieving gender equality in STEM education could add up to 1.2 million jobs and EUR 610-820 billion to Europe’s GDP by 2050.
The biggest challenges for women in the IT industry are that they are generally paid less for the same positions compared to men, and thy have less chance to advance in company hierarchy. Globally, women account for only 16 per cent of managers in the information technology industry. 30 per cent of women over the age of 35 are still in junior positions, while 85 per cent of men aged 25 to 34 are in senior positions.
In companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, the share of women in the total number of employees is about 23 per cent. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.
While a growing number of women are enrolling in the Universities, many opt out at the highest levels required for a research career. Only 30 per cent of researcher positions are occupied by women worldwide. Also, just 21 per cent of engineering majors and 19 per cent of computer science majors are taken by women. Hoever,we can find some really surprising exceptions. For example, in Bolivia, women account for 63 per centresearchers, compared to France with a rate of 26 per cent or Ethiopia at 8 per cent.
Women in Science and IT in Serbia
In Serbia, about 20 per cent of employees in the IT sector are women. Within the "Schools for the 21st Century" program, British Council has developed a guide and series of activities to help primary schools set up Coding Club as an extracurricular activity. This program is attended equally by girls and boys.
Things are changing for the better, the situation is improving, the gender gap is shrinking, but if we truly intend to meet the needs of the 21st-century economy, we must break down barriers, increase girls’ interest in STEM, and encourage more women to pursue STEM careers.
In 2015, United Nations proclaimed 11 February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science.