I have a widely known secret; I am a female executive with a successful career in the tech industry at G2 Crowd, and I don’t know how to code.
It never once occurred to me that I had to be an engineer or know how to code in order to pursue opportunities within the tech field. And back in the early 2000s when I joined Google, I don’t recall anyone saying to me (or my female peers for that matter) that I had to learn to code.
I am a BIG believer that girls and young women should absolutely be encouraged to code if they are interested in computer science. But before we prescribe such a specific level of skill development, it’s all of our responsibility – as parents, teachers, friends and role models – to first make sure that they understand the constellation of opportunity that awaits them in STEM fields.
Tech companies are businesses. And most businesses don’t just need programmers. Like most companies, tech companies need business and operations managers, marketers, sellers, accountants, customer success leaders, user experience experts, designers, writers, IT admins – and the list goes on and on.
For tech-oriented companies across industries, developers are indeed a central piece to the overall puzzle, but so are the other roles that all make up the entire puzzle. The possibilities are truly endless, because new roles are emerging just to keep up with the pace of technological growth. When we enshrine coding as the one skill required to enter the world of technology, we risk dimming the magical potential of the industry in the eyes of girls and young women.
As a result, we filter out a lot of smart, creative girls who have an incredible array of talent to offer to fast-growing companies that are improving societies and elevating our standard of living.
Young girls are naturally curious about what the future might hold for them. So rather than starting the conversation with a demand (“Learn how to code!”), we should begin with education.
I see a lot of girls wanting to be doctors, business executives, designers, teachers or lawyers because they’ve seen women in these roles – whether it’s their mom’s, aunt’s, friends or on TV. I am hopeful by talking about other roles that are out there that we will start to see more variety in the roles that girls and women pursue.
To help girls and young women imagine themselves in these tech careers, we need to show them examples of successful women in these roles. There’s still a gender gap, yes, but there are women leading their fields in every tech-related category. Show them information architect Abby Covert. Show them Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos, co-founders of The Muse. Show them Mary Meeker, partner at Kleiner Perkins or Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook.
My goal is to shine a spotlight on career paths in tech that I worry many girls aren’t learning about at home or in school. The fact is that most of these opportunities don’t require candidates to know how to code. I want our girls and young women to see tech as a playing field for their passions. Before we get down to nurturing specific skill development, our first job is to open their eyes to the possibilities.
Read our guide on how to get kids on a career path in technology.