August was Women's Month in South Africa and as part of the celebrations, I was recently named one of the top 50 most inspiring women in technology in South Africa.
This honor left me reflecting on my career path and how I accidentally ended up working in the field. Fortunately, that accidental path led me to an exciting career, working in a sector that is disrupting the way we live and work and changing the way we've always conducted business globally.
Technology and innovation have always been a passion, but working in the field was not something I intended to do. From a young age, I was always interested in building things and had a natural curiosity of finding out how things work. However, after college I joined Reuters News
thinking I would work in media. At the time, news organizations were just beginning to experiment with the "world wide web," building sites and products for audiences on Yahoo and AOL. Reuters was an early adopter of new technologies, and I was placed on the product development team working with these new platforms. While I accidentally fell into this path, I am immensely grateful that I embarked on a career that now dominates the global economy, and I want to ensure that other women have the same access to opportunity that I did.
Gender diversity is still a major problem in technology. While we've improved in certain areas, women graduating with a degree in computer science is less than what it was in the early 1980s. This means women will miss out on the 1.4 million new jobs in computer science-related fields by 2020, predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
. The number of jobs is increasing while the trend for women's participation is declining.
Many industries are advocating a change in leadership identifying the IQ and EQ qualities that women bring to business. At Thomson Reuters, we recently announced an ambitious goal of 40% female leadership across the organization by 2020. We firmly believe that a balanced workforce is the most innovative and therefore best positioned to drive long term financial success. Locally, South Africa is showing a healthy level of gender parity in terms of entrepreneurial involvement - but the same cannot be said for leadership roles in technology, where women still seem to be in the minority in many tech-related areas.
If we want to see more women entering the field, we need to target young girls early. They need to see more public role models who are women in tech, and graduates need to be able to find involved mentors. Putting women in the public face of technology is necessary if we want to make significant progress toward increasing the gender diversity in technology and innovation fields.
Today there are many roles in technology - not just coding, for example. The rise of machines, artificial intelligence, and the blurring of traditional and disruption lines offers a number of options for women - ones that were never available before. We need to encourage young women to explore their options not only now, but for the career and job market of the future as well. Not only is this beneficial to young women - providing them with valuable, good paying jobs - but it's beneficial to corporations who need to recruit and retain the innovators of the future.
The tech game is still a new playing field and those involved can help shape its future. I encourage young women to carefully examine the benefits of working in such an innovative sector.
If you are dynamic, naturally curious, and willing to push the envelope - just go for it! Tech is changing all the time, so you will have an incredible time filled with self-discovery and learning new things every day. This industry will also allow you to figure things out as you go; you don't need to have a degree to excel in it. In fact, this is one of the few industries that self-taught people excel in - as what counts is your curiosity, willingness to learn, and not being afraid to pick yourself up and try again. You just have to be you. Live your truth and passion.
Saidah Nash Carter is a builder of new experiences for new platforms. She began her career creating news products for Reuters News and launched some of the first multimedia news offerings on Yahoo! and AOL nearly 15 years ago. Today she pursues her passion for building innovative, digital content experiences for consumers and professionals with an increased focus on the intersection of mobile, social and emerging markets.
Nash Carter specializes in creative business development, partnerships, product innovation and co-creation.