When Melinda Gates was studying in the 1980s, she says around 37% of computer science and law graduates were women. Today, around 47% of law graduates are female. In computer science, that figure has fallen to 18%.
It's a problem that Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a computer science graduate, plans to tackle with a new initiative to get more women into tech-related fields and keep them there. Her solution is two-fold: plugging the leaks in the education pipeline when females are most likely to drop out of tech-related subjects, and encouraging companies to have family-friendly policies that make it easier for women to juggle work and home life.
That's essential if the tech sector is to improve its record on gender diversity. A 2015 study, by tech title CNET, of some of the leading tech companies in Silicon Valley revealed that while women made up 29.1% of the overall workforce, they accounted for 22.5% of leadership positions and just 15.6% of tech staff. That's against a landscape where women make up 51% of the US population and 59% of the US labor force.
The upshot of this imbalance? Businesses that are failing on diversity are taking a hit on their bottom line. A study by the US's National Center for Women and Information Technology found that businesses perform better financially, and in terms of productivity, when women occupy a significant proportion of top management positions. It also found that gender-diverse technology organizations and departments are more likely to stay on schedule, under budget and show improved employee performance.
Having grown up in war-torn Rwanda, Nicaise Ishimwe, Quality Assurance Analyst at emovis, is determined to use her talents to build connections between people and use those connections to create lasting solutions. We hear from Nicaise about how to get more women into tech.