The proportion of women in STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology), and especially in IT, is very low. While women make up 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., they hold only 25% of computing roles. And this number has even gone down over time, from 32% to 25%.
While being a woman in IT may be rare, being an autistic woman in IT is far more rare. In addition to the challenges that females are encountering whilst pursuing STEM qualifications, there are the challenges that individuals on the spectrum face day to day. The reasons behind the low quota of women in IT, the social challenges of autistic women and what we can do about it, read the following.
IT has been a male-dominated sector from the start – not because there was not enough female talent, but because women are often not encouraged to pursue a scientific career. There can be various reasons for this: personal upbringing or socialization. Also, many women who are interested in IT professions feel intimidated by the low female quota. In one study, 39% of women in STEM professions stated that they were discriminated against in terms of pay and promotion. Also, 24% of women said that they missed a female lead role. Even our own female employees feel that it’s “a combination of how girls are treated in school and sort of steered towards non-technical jobs, and also bias in the industry”. At auticon, we currently have about 20% of female employees in technical roles, but we are striving to change that. On the one hand, we are giving women the opportunity to take a look at technology jobs by Internship programs (link to Paige’s Interview). On the other hand we are shedding light onto the the social challenges of autistic women.
There are certain challenges that people on the autism spectrum are facing in the professional world. That includes the strain of social interaction which proves to be a hard task for some individuals. Especially autistic women are under pressure to correspond to a gender stereotype. Relaxed conversation, understanding and courteous behaviour as well as form-fitting clothing are some of the unspoken expectations with which those affected are confronted. In order to master the unpleasant small talk at the coffee machine, many women on the autism spectrum learn corresponding phrases or sentences by heart at home, which they can recall in such situations. Many people with autism are not able to understand the complex social rules and consequently do not want to take part in discussions about the weather, fashion or the latest gossip.
We at auticon make an effort to understand everyone’s autism – that includes the perspectives of talented women, in and out of the technology field. Encouraging more women to pursue qualifications in the STEM field could not only improve the professional fulfilment of many women, it could also prove effective against the global tech-talent gap.
Are you on the autism spectrum and looking for a career in technology? You have a good eye for details, can concentrate perseveringly, recognize patterns and errors or like to analyze questions logically?
Whether you are an expert or a beginner: If you are interested in IT, then we should get to know each other.