SEATTLE — Stereotypes and assumptions about women have perpetuated a decline in participation within the field of technology. These pre-existing biases continue into a logical revolving door that confuses causation and consequence. Are there fewer women in tech because they cannot compete or are they led to believe they cannot compete because there are fewer women in tech?
Women hold 57 percent of all professional occupations but only 25 percent of computing positions. Only a small percentage of those women are minorities. The percentage of women in computing occupations has been declining since 1991. These statistics are not indicative of a decline in capability, only interest and opportunity. Groups all over the world have been working to foster interest and highlight opportunities for young girls to join the tech industry as entrepreneurs and leaders.
Dow Jones determined that startups that were considered successful employed more women in senior positions than companies that were considered unsuccessful. According to a study performed by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile in terms of gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective industry medians. Despite efforts to eliminate gender inequality in teaching curricula and materials, biases still pervade and blind young girls to their own possibilities.
Here to change the game is the Technovation Challenge, which invites young girls from around the world to identify problems in their communities and challenges them to devise a solution. Technovation provides women mentors to help each team build a mobile app and write a business plan to launch it.
Sponsored by the Adobe Foundation, Salesforce.org, Google.org, Oath: For Good, ON Semiconductor, Walmart Giving and 3M, it spans more than 100 countries. In the eight years that Technovation has been around, 15,000 girls around the world have developed mobile apps and startups to solve community problems from food waste management to nutrition and women’s safety.
Technovation’s curriculum consists of four stages inspired by the principles of design:
- Stage One: Ideation
Identify a problem in the community
- Stage Two: Technology
Develop a mobile app solution
- Stage Three: Entrepreneurship
Build a business plan to launch the app
- Stage Four: Pitch
Bring the business to market
Throughout these stages, teams must complete nine assignments:
- Pitch Video
- Demo Video
- App Name and Description
- Team Photo and Summary
- Source Code
- Business Plan
- Screenshots of the App
- Code Checklist
- Pitch Presentation
After completion, these contestants are judged using a rubric outlined by the four stages mentioned earlier. In each category, students have a chance to earn a certain number of points. For Ideation, the maximum is 25 points; Technical, 20 points; Pitch, 20 points; Entrepreneurship, 20 points and a total of 25 points for Overall Impression.
The Technovation Challenge exposes these young women to resources that foster creativity within a technical context that many girls who compete would never have encountered or even considered. Even teams that do not win are still equipped with the knowledge to make themselves part of a global economy while solving the problems of their own communities.
Data has shown that the experience of participating in the Technovation Challenge has led these young women to win startup and app competitions, speak at public events, attend coding workshops and receive various internships with prominent technology companies, universities and government agencies. Introducing more women to technology has the power to promote innovation, improve financial outlooks and show young girls what they are capable of.
– Rebekah Korn