As software development ranks advance, will they welcome more women?

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Software development is one of the fastest growing areas of the IT industry and provides a great opportunity for the next generation of budding technology experts to get into computing. But what will the next generation of the IT workforce look like? The current landscape is male-dominated, but is enough being done to level-out the imbalance?

Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day - a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also provides an opportunity to look at areas where women are still underrepresented.

One of the most prominent areas where there is a gender imbalance is within the technology sector - where only 28% of software jobs are held by women. Information Management spoke with Katie Tierney, senior director of global sales engineering at WhiteHat Security, an application security provider, about her experiences and advice to the next generation of software developers.

Information Management: A lot has been made of the gender gap in the technology industry in recent years. Do you believe this still exists and if so, why does it?

Katie Tierney: I agree that there is a clear gap between the number of men and women working in the development sector, but I think a lot of this is down to self-selection.

For example, I have four children, and in their education, they’re all offered the same opportunities, the same classes, and they self-select into what they find more interesting. Some kids find technology interesting, and some simply don’t. I also believe that today’s young women believe that they can be or do anything they want. Women in the workplace isn’t new or different for these women - it’s all they’ve ever known, so there isn’t a fear of being “the first woman” to do something.

Let’s face it - software development is driving technology, and technology is driving the world. We’re on the front lines of new and exciting frontiers, and it is a great time to be a software developer.

Based on the popularity of devices and gaming with young people, I think the next generation will create a lot more software developers, and I hope all genders are more excited about the opportunities to build amazing things through software.

One thing that frustrates me, though, is that I still hear people saying that in order to be a good programmer, you have to be great at math. That turns a lot of women off. Here’s the thing, though - you don’t have to be a great mathematician to be a great software developer. Personally, I really dislike math, but I am a really solid programmer. There are a lot of pathways into this sector without being strong at math. With more diversity and entry points, hopefully this stereotype be diminished.

IM: WhiteHat works within the software development process and application security. What is the culture like amongst women at WhiteHat?

Tierney: We have a group called ‘Women of WhiteHat’ open to all women in the company. It is mainly run via a HipChat channel where we share anything that is positive or supportive - from jokes to helpful advice.

This is a great community to be a part of, and these kinds of groups are always useful. For new or junior people in the company, it is a great way to include and mentor them. Overall WhiteHat is well-balanced gender-wise.

IM: What would your advice be to women looking to get into tech and especially software development?

Tierney: I believe if there is something that you really want to do, don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do it just because you are a girl. Just do it.

The other piece of advice I would share, with both genders, is to always say yes. Even if you don’t think you have the skills or the knowledge to get something done - always say yes. You’ll learn and you’ll figure it out. And when you’re done, you’ll be that much better positioned for the next step.

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