Building Networks of Equal Opportunities

Getting more women into the IoT workforce requires a level playing field, not an easier one.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 07, 2016

The other day, I was interviewing a female executive with a Fortune 100 technology company about an Internet of Things talent-recruitment program that her company, in partnership with a few other industrial titans, is initiating. Their goal is to foster a large and capable workforce of programmers, engineers, marketers, data scientists, designers and other key individuals needed to meet the near- and long-term projections for a very large, robust IoT industry.

I had just returned from my umpteenth IoT industry conference populated mostly by white men, and so asked I this executive what efforts were being made to encourage a more racially diverse and gender-balanced population of IoT professionals. She said her company's approach is to partner with organizations whose sole focus is fostering workplace diversity, and she noted that this also includes recruiting military veterans.

"Great," I said, adding that perhaps the efforts many educators have been making in recent years to encourage more girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers will start to pay off soon, with more women entering the tech world. Her response left me rather gobsmacked. She said that because many of the foundational programming tools have become far less complex, professionals who work in those programming environments do not need as much skill in mathematics as they once did.

"We think now is probably the best time for women to think about [a career in] IT," she said.

Wait. What? I countered that the whole purpose of STEM is to destroy long-held stereotypes that math and science is male terrain, and the notion that females are somehow less capable of mastering those disciplines.

To be fair, the larger point this executive was trying to make was that it's important to have a mix of employees who studied technology, as well as those with a liberal arts background, and that creative thinkers bring a great skillset to the tech industry. She said IT is due for a rebranding, and that it's "not just for geeks."

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