To address the tech industry's "pipeline problem," a spate of investments have targeted programs that teach coding to kids, including Google's "Made With Code," a new $50 million initiative to inspire girls to become programmers. As a mother of two young daughters, I am delighted with such efforts.
Just one question: What about me? More specifically, what about the millions of moms like me who have the education and work experience but not the coding skills to join the tech industry?
I want in. But as a working mom, it's almost impossible. For the last few years, I've tried learning to code through online classes and weekend workshops. In one class, I built an app typing with one hand, while carrying a squiggly infant on my hip with the other. During lunch, while other workshop participants munched and mingled, I sat in a dirty back office alone, breastfeeding my baby. It was January and the office was unheated. That is how much I want in, and I know I'm not the only one.
In addition to having education and work experience, moms represent a $2.4 trillion market and are quick to adopt technology: 90 percent are online, 81 percent have smart phones, and we dominate social media. Given all this, and that 81 percent of American women become mothers, there ought to be more technologies that are "Made by Moms." Yet those are far and few between because most training simply is notdesigned for women, let alone mothers.
Going back for that computer science degree, attending weeknight or all-weekend coding workshops, taking online courses after the kids go to bed, completing a full-time training course - these options just aren't accessible to moms who must juggle child-care responsibilities against time and financial constraints.
These barriers, mind you, stand in addition to the gender-related ones that women must overcome when breaking into the technology field--lack of role models, gender bias and misconceptions about what a career in technology entails.
Yet our status quo leaves too much talent on the sidelines. The tech industry's lack of diversity is compromising business performance and innovation. There are more than 126,000 job openings that require programming skills. While having a computer science degree may be preferable, the truth is many tech roles don't require one, and there are many talented and educated moms hungry to work in a high-growth industry offering career advancement and economic security.
With the number of tech jobs expected to balloon by 1.4 million by 2020--70 percent of which will be unfilled--moms would alleviate the talent shortage in the near term while ensuring the integrity of the talent pipeline. After all: there's no better role model for aspiring tech-maker daughters than tech-making moms, and no better way to build strong communities than providing economic opportunity to women. Plus with 40 percent of households now dependent on moms who are either the sole or primary breadwinner, this kind of investment can lift up families and rebuild the American dream.
As "software eats the world," we should urge companies, policymakers and the philanthropic community to take a more coordinated and targeted approach to bringing moms to careers in technology.
Mothers are a diverse set and we're ready to bring our unique perspectives to bear, to help drive the creation of new products and services, to shape the world in which our children will live. Tech needs us, and we want in.
This article was originally published here in the San Francisco Chronicle