From Fashion to Finance: Tech is Everywhere


“Your voice is a medium of manifestation. In your format, with your passion, it can be a tool for

It doesn’t have to be perfect; it needs to persist.

~ Komal Singh, Sr. Program Manager, Author, Speaker, Creator

When two power-house women in tech, with a combined decades of experience in the field of IT, get together to dissect the state of information technology, particularly how women in tech can not only survive but thrive, you know the results are going to be good. A year ago this week, Debra Christmas and Kelley Irwin published their book Please Stay: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive.

As they said last year, “We wanted to write a book. And then we did. In a year full of challenges, there were many reasons in 2020 to put off the book launch, and only one reason to persevere.

Because it matters.”

In fact, it matters A LOT. Because technology is everywhere – from fashion to finance and everything in between.

Technology is Everywhere

Steve Jobs used to call the computer a bicycle for the mind. Today – we are all riding that bicycle, in every step we take, cell phone in hand, and every day at work, in nearly every industry in the developed world.

A few years back, the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, did a study using what they called a “digital score.” From zero to 100, they rated the adoption of technology within various industries – especially those fields not traditionally thought of as “tech” fields. Roofers, parking lot attendants, restaurant workers, factory workers, garage attendants, and so on. They found that the “…use of digital tools has increased, often dramatically, in 517 of 545 occupations since 2002, with a striking uptick in many lower-skilled occupations.”

Scoring out of a hundred, the results are fascinating:

  • On average, the score for all occupations rose by 59 percent – from a 29 in 2002 to 46 in 2016.
  • Warehouse workers (who now use technology to track packages and freight) saw their score jump from 5 in 2002 to 25 in 2016.
  • Roofers, not surprisingly, had a score of zero nearly two decades ago. As of 2016 it had climbed to 22.
  • And parking lot attendants saw their number go from 3 to 26.

Everything you touch these days is a computer. And when you factor in how rapidly technology has advanced over the last 5 or so years, those digital scores are probably way higher today.

Why Many Women Dodge Technology

We’ve established that the days of avoiding technology, even if on a career path not related to STEM, are long gone. Tech is ubiquitous – heck, your fridge will send you an email to scold you for opening the door too often this month. So why are many girls and women still so hesitant to dive deeper into technology, to study it in school and university, or even choose a career in the field? Because sadly, gender stereotypes still play a huge role in steering – subtly or not so subtly – women away from tech. “Bro Culture” still thrives in many organizations, and many women simply have no interest in being the only female in the room.

Starting as early as kindergarten, girls begin to self-select away from subjects like maths and sciences, mainly because they are not provided with positive, affirming experiences in STEM by parents and teachers. Sometimes this is cultural – but more often it’s generational. Language matters, so let’s stop passing a fear of tech down to our daughters. The reality is, if they have a chance to experience STEM, they perform just as well as boys do.

And barriers remain. In our last series, we talked about the struggles that face women in tech, particularly due to gender stereotyping. Almost three-quarters of women surveyed by IEEE reported experiencing negative outcomes in their careers simply because they are women.

  • Seventy-one percent said questions were addressed to men when they should have been addressed to them.
  • Nearly 40 percent reported being assigned low-level tasks and excluded from networking events.
  • And 58 percent said they had been asked inappropriate questions during interviews.

It’s gross statistics such as those above that reinforce why we keep hammering home how important it is for women already established in IT to actively support, teach, and mentor other women. As the old song goes, “Sisters are Doin’ it For Themselves.”

You are Already Working in Tech

As we’ve mapped out in this piece, even if you’re not working in a traditional tech field, you are already working in tech. Of the top five careers that women currently dominate – pharmacist, nurse practitioner, veterinarian, EMS dispatcher, or realtor – you need to be tech savvy to succeed.

And while double-digit growth is expected for tech jobs like database analysts, systems analysts, software engineers, eight out of 10 middle-skill, non-STEM jobs today require some level of digital skills, and will pay more for them.

Ladies, you can run but you can’t hide. We need women to embrace technology at every level. Don’t undersell yourselves any longer. You CAN do math. Your brain IS wired that way. This isn’t just about coding, or even computer science, as they are both only a part of what information and technology is today. The skills and aptitude that we need far surpass a degree in math or science.

We need creative people, innovative thinkers, excellent problem solvers, and people with social and communications skills. We need people who understand both the human needs and the technical jargon and can marry the two to unleash wonderful, usable, feature-rich solutions for real life and real people.

In short, we need you.