By Jeri Moses, Lockheed Martin Engineer
When I tell people I work at Lockheed Martin, they often assume I work in finance or human resources. This is a strange assumption considering more than 50 percent of Lockheed Martin employees are technologists and engineers. But, females are underrepresented in engineering, particularly in computer science. I may be biased, but I think girls that code are cool.
According to Girls Who Code, 74 percent of middle school girls express interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and yet this is not translating into higher education decisions. When choosing a college major, less than 1 percent of girls select computer science.
Girls Who Code stated that, for girls, one of the biggest turn-offs to computer science is the perceived “geek factor.” The media perpetuates this perception; the most well-known female computer programmers in pop culture are on television shows -Abby Sciuto from NCIS and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds. These women are interesting television characters, but not icons that illicit a mainstream following. This isn’t the case for men. Computer programming rockstars like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are household names.
It’s time to change the stigma for female computer programmers. Girls that code are cool and can do amazing things, and the career field has some major advantages. According to US News, not only does computer science empower you in any career field, software developer and computer systems analyst positions are the two best jobs in America with good salaries, manageable work-life balance and job security. Additionally, eight of the top ten best jobs in technology are computer and/or software related.
If you’re looking for a real-life female role model, try Grace Hopper. She was a computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral, credited with developing the first software compiler and popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches. And, if that’s not enough, Cool Careers for Girls in Computers by Ceel Pasternak highlights ten successful women in the computer industry.
As the founding and presenting sponsor of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, Lockheed Martin encourages students to explore all STEM fields, including computer science. The festival is an important way for us to share our passion with the next generation of innovators. I will definitely be there to encourage girls to consider a career in computer technology. With every girl that joins computer technology, girls that code get cooler!