Why Careers in Technology are Good for Women

Careers for women in technology get an undeservedly bad rap. As I was researching this article, I was overwhelmed by all the negative press. While it's true that there are still issues to be resolved, the multitide of negative articles would lead anyone to believe that a career in technology is not a good career path for women.

That has not been my experience, nor the experience of thousands of successful women in technology.

In fact, here's five reasons every young woman should consider a career in tech:

1. More jobs. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the high-tech sector was 23 percent more likely than the economy as a whole to witness new business formation. And the information and communications technology (ICT) sector was 48 percent more likely.

2. More money. According to an Engine advocacy study for the Kauffman Foundation, the tech industry pays an annual wage of $93,800, which is 98 percent more than the average private sector wage. In some states like California and Massachusetts, it's significantly higher, at $123,900 and $116,000, respectively.

3. Meaningful work. Working in tech is the path to solving big problems. Witness the innovations of the past 20 years that have come from tech: the internet, mobile communications, hyper-interconnectivity, new business models that are disrupting everything from how we consume bookes and media to how we work and learn.

As Vivek Wadhwa points out, women have a role to play in creating and leveraging technology: "The world has big problems to solve. We need leaders who can identify and actually empathize with their constituencies, or, in terms of business, with their clients. We need empathy, which of course is something women are naturally able to incorporate in their leadership. Women care. Women want to fix things, make things better for others. Women are ready to take on the important problems technology can help solve."

4. More flexibility. Laptops, mobile phones and ubiquitous internet connectivity have allowed workers in tech - and many other industries - to work remotely with non-traditional schedules. Tech firms are more likely, on the whole, to embrace and leverage these innovations to give employees control over where and when they work.

5. More equality. The pay gap for women is significantly smaller in tech. While gender-based wage disparity does still exist, a Dice survey found that the average woman in tech makes $87,500 a year, compared to $95,000 for men. When controlled for education and level of experience, there is no significant difference. Compare this to the national average across all industries, where women earn of 78 percent of what men earn.

Moreover, the attitudes toward women in tech are changing, again, according to Vivek Wadhwa, one of the earliest researches into gender divide in tech. He says:

The tide has turned. The tech industry is hurting itself and our economy by keeping women out of innovation. It's limiting itself by sexism. We need diversity now more than ever. In fact, the most important trends in technology now are about social connection and beautiful design. Women know all about that.

Silicon Valley companies recognize this shift and are now holding themselves accountable by publishing diversity data. Among them, Cisco has recently reported its 2014 workforce diversity, and outlined its commitment to attracting more women to the business, providing an inclusive culture that encourages retention, and helping women move into leadership roles.

Cisco launched the Young Women's Innovation Grand Challenge to underscore its commitment to bringing young women into the sciences as we connect the unconnected with the Internet of Things. It's your opportunity to come up with new ideas on how technologies from the Internet of Things can improve education, health care, manufacturing, energy, retail, transportation, smart cities or find new solutions that can cut through many industries. Submit your idea by March 25, 2015.

I strongly recommend technology as an outstanding career for women. More opportunity, money, meaningful work, flexibility, and, ultimately, more progress towards equality. That is why I am participating in the Women Rock-IT Cisco TV series -- to inspire young women to consider careers in IT and to support female students already on that journey.

Please join my live Cisco TV broadcast on February 5 and join the conversation about how you can have an amazing career in IT.

This blog is the second in a series of posts from some "Rock'in" Cisco women who have challenged gender stereotypes and turned their passion for technology into rewarding and successful careers. See the first installment here.

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