Thoughts on International Women's Day from a Woman in Tech

Mar82011

This year the International Women’s Day celebrates its 100th anniversary. Great strides have been made over these past 100 years in reaching gender equality: women’s right to vote or run for office are virtually universal, women’s participation on the workforce has increased and the percentage of women earning college degrees or higher have reached parity with men’s.

The rate of progress of women’s rights in the US can be seen in the newly published Women in America report by the White House. Along with the good news, the document also highlights some of the challenges that still remain. The gender gap in earnings has narrowed but still remains, women continue to do most of the domestic chores on households where both wife and husband work and women are still under-represented in management positions as well as higher earning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations.

The later issue should be a cause for concern to high tech companies. Generically speaking, tech companies are missing on the potential contribution from 50% of the population. But women’s contribution should not be simplified to just raw numbers. Women are known to approach problems differently than men, to work better in teams and be more cooperative and better at multi-tasking. This difference in style brings new perspectives to the table and fosters innovation.

A 2010 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) titled “Why so few?” showcases the reasons for the lack of representation of women on STEM fields along with ways to address the issue. Even though girls in school show as much aptitude in math and science as boys, social and environmental factors keep many from pursuing or persevering in technical fields as they move through college and their professional lives. Education and awareness training on gender bias and stereotypes are key to getting more girls to choose and graduate in STEM majors. And implementation of clear and objective ways to assess one’s performance will keep female employees engaged on the technical career path once they enter the corporate world.

At Applied Materials we understand the value of a diverse work force. One of the many resources we offer employees to support their development are affinity groups that enable them to connect and network with others that share their interests or dimensions in diversity. Our Women’s Professional Development Network (WPDN) strives to inspire and enable a community of women to reach their full potential while strengthening Applied Materials’ goal to be an employer of choice for women.

For more information about Applied’s diversity efforts please visit our web site.

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