There is an abundance of research that shows women are under-represented in the technology sector. If you are a woman or if you are an employer, should this be of concern?

First, why should women care and why is it important for Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) to do everything we can to encourage and support women to enter technology? Quite simply, it’s because there are more jobs and better-paying jobs. Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) offer a strong path for women and serve as a great aspiration for girls. According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce:

Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.

Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs – considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs.

Beyond STEM, there are plenty of other opportunities for women in technology. In 2008, WICT’s PAR Initiative research showed women comprise 15.1 percent of all cable technology employees; in 2009, that figure rose to 22.4 percent.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, women earn three undergraduate degrees for every two earned by men. And for the first time, women are outpacing men in terms of postgraduate degrees earned. We also know that, as Baby Boomers retire, the talent shortage will become more acute. If women are not encouraged to enter technology jobs, companies will have a smaller talent pool from which to recruit.

We are actively working to strengthen this sector. This is the basis of WICT’s “Tech It Out (TIO)” initiative, which was developed to build awareness of the tremendous opportunities for women in cable technology. The broad strategies of the WICT TIO Initiative are to:

Promote the cable technology profession and its opportunities within the industry and to new audiences through various activities, partnerships and programs;

Build awareness of the gaps between men and women employed in cable technology;

Help empower women leaders in the cable technology sector and those about to enter this profession through resources available from WICT, WICT chapters and WICT’s strategic partners.

Tactically, that translates into the following steps:

WICT has partnered with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and with Communications Technology to present the annual “Women in Technology” Award (see related story on page 8). This award is incredibly important because it shows women already in this sector that they can reach the highest levels. For women considering a technology job, it’s important for them to know they can achieve at the same level they can in other areas.

WICT has worked in tandem with SCTE and the Women in Technology honorees to launch “Women’s TechConnect” — a formal mentoring program pairing tenured women in cable technology with rising leaders in tech fields. The goal of the program is to provide a crucial support system to better equip mentees to overcome workplace challenges while helping them rise through the cable ranks until they themselves become the leaders and innovators.

We also are collaborating with SCTE, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) and the Walter Kaitz Foundation to enhance our TIO program. We created a half-day event within SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo that will help attract and retain women in technology jobs. WICT will provide enhanced leadership development, augmenting the technology education available through the Cable-Tec Expo.

Bottom line, there are tremendous opportunities for women in technology. We simply must do more to help women understand that these opportunities exist, encourage them to pursue this as a career path and support those who make this choice. It is in the best interest of women and employers. The reality is changing, but we can do more.

Maria E. Brennan, CAE, is president/CEO of Women in Cable Telecommunications. Contact her at mebrennan@wict.org.

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