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WiCipedia: Should tech jobs require college degrees?WiCipedia: Should tech jobs require college degrees?

This week in our WiC roundup: The argument for why jobs in tech shouldn't require a diploma; a new online community for women in UX; how language in job descriptions affects applicants; and more.

Eryn Leavens

January 15, 2021

4 Min Read
WiCipedia: Should tech jobs require college degrees?

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: The argument for why jobs in tech shouldn't require a diploma; a new online community for women in UX; how language in job descriptions affects applicants; and more.

  • Tech CEOs are often lauded for being wunderkinds who didn't even go to college. Yet the reality is that these founders are almost always white men who dropped out of Ivy League schools and had every possible advantage growing up. An op-ed on CNBC asks companies to now consider hiring other employees who don't have college degrees, specifically Black women. Child computer prodigy LaShana Lewis didn't attend university, but she landed a job in tech after decades of trying to break into the industry. Her lack of degree initially hindered her success, even though she had the skills to do the job. Lewis, who is now director of the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, director of IT at non-profit Givable and a Fulbright Specialist, is asking companies to look for skills rather than diplomas. After all, there are dozens of coding workshops and returnship programs available to women these days, many even available virtually during the pandemic. If a prospective employee were able to complete the same tasks with or without an expensive degree, why would it matter if they had also attended keggers? (See WiCipedia: Minority numbers in STEM studies still lag.)

Figure 1: Can tech skills be acquired outside of higher learning's hallowed halls? We think so.
(Source: Pixabay) We think so.
(Source: Pixabay)

A new UX (user experience) design community intended for women is looking to shift the tables on tech's uneven numbers. Yahoo reports that UX Designer Nandi Manning is making it her mission to create an "empowering" space for women of color in the UX and digital product design space. She started UX HER a year ago, and in that time she has begun a mentorship program and successfully helped women in the group snag coveted roles in tech. Creating an inclusive environment is crucial for companies as well as individuals. As Manning told Yahoo, "You have to consider essential things like accessibility and usability in designing human-centered digital products. This is why having more diverse teams in this industry is crucial. There have to be more inclusive environments while building digital experiences." (See WiCipedia: Networking helps get women on boards.) The pandemic has not been kind to women's careers, and a new report reveals that women are more in danger of losing their jobs in tech than ever. One study explains that women in tech are being laid off from their jobs at 1.6% the rate of their male counterparts. Yet ironically, research shows that women are also more likely to be perceived as better leaders in a crisis, and if anything is a crisis, it's a global pandemic. So why would companies get rid of their most pandemic-competent employees? The studies explain that while women may be just as qualified, men are more likely to be in senior positions, giving them an edge on job security. Additionally, women have been more likely to leave tech jobs on their own accord over the past year due to family responsibilities. Once the pandemic is over, we are sure gonna have a time trying to regain our gender equality losses. (See WiCipedia: Breaking through barriers and smashing inequality.) New research from Openreach explains that job descriptions continue to exclude women with biased language, particularly for male-dominated engineering roles. The company has been examining its own use of words in job descriptions in the hopes of attracting more female applicants, and has found that when gender-neutral language is used, 200% more women end up applying. Openreach hopes to attract a minimum of 20% women into new roles in 2021 – way more than normal – so this new tactic will play a large part in that goal. Hopefully more companies will start to examine their technical job descriptions so they are more approachable to all applicants. With "over half (55%) of women considering a new career as a result of the pandemic," the time is now to reevaluate how companies recruit, hire and retain new employees. (See WiCipedia: Smile to Get Ahead, Coding Ninjas & 'Women in Tech' Need a New Moniker.) — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading. Follow us on Twitter @LR_WiC and contact Eryn directly at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Eryn Leavens

Special Features & Copy Editor

Eryn Leavens, who joined Light Reading in January 2015, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before earning her BA in creative writing and studio arts from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. She also completed UC Berkeley Extension's Professional Sequence in Editing.

She stumbled into tech copy editing after red-penning her way through several Bay Area book publishers, including Chronicle Books, Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull Press and Seal Press. She spends her free time lifting heavy things, growing her own food, animal wrangling and throwing bowls on the pottery wheel. She lives in Alameda, Calif., with two cats and two greyhounds.

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