While women make up half the U.S. workforce, they represent about 27 percent of jobs in computer science fields, according to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This statistic is mirrored by America’s tech giants. In 2015, Google reported that 30 percent of its employees were women.
In its annual diversity report, Microsoft reported a decline in women workers between 2014 and 2015, from 29 percent to 26.8 percent of the company’s total workforce.
Apple is now 31 percent female, according to its most recent diversity report.
Even the women considered trailblazers in tech are sometimes bypassed by history. Take, for example, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
In the 1950s, Hopper, recipient of the 1991 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, led the team that invented COBOL, one of the first computer programming languages.
Rear Admiral Grace Hoppe
A pioneer of early technology, “Amazing Grace,” as she is often called, invented the term “debugging” after pulling a moth out of Harvard’s Mark II computer.
Until her death in 1992, she worked as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation.
“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it,” she is often quoted as saying. “It’s much easier to apologize than to get permission.”
This can-do spirit lends itself to inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders – a task that begins in America’s classrooms, according to Code.org.
Only 1 in 4 U.S. schools teach computer science, said Alice Steinglass, the Seattle-based advocacy group’s vice president of product and marketing.
“A girl might be really excited about computer science, but sometimes she doesn’t have the opportunity,” she added.
When computer science is offered, many girls balk at signing up – intimidated by boys who may have tinkered with computers at a younger age.
“Maybe they’ve been making games. Maybe they’ve been hacking,” Steinglass said. “As a woman who hasn’t had exposure to computer science, you feel like you’re starting way behind.”
It’s a sentiment Steinglass knows firsthand.
Before working at Code.org, she held a variety of positions within Microsoft, leading projects with Hololens, Windows and XBox Live.