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In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and artificial intelligence, STEM graduates face a transforming workplace. Riccardo Ocleppo, founder of the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), shares insights with TopUniversities.com on the skills gap and thriving careers in AI and tech. Discover the in-demand skills, innovative STEM program designs, and strategies for staying valuable in the dynamic field.
Read more on QS: How to spot an innovative, future-proof STEM degree
In a Forbes article by Matt Symonds, explore how OPIT offers affordable, competency-based online programs in Computer Science and AI, addressing the industry demand for skilled professionals. With a faculty of international experts and a focus on practical skills, OPIT aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry, preparing students for success in the dynamic tech landscape.
It’s clear that there’s a growing demand for qualified computer scientists – as well as professionals in related fields – throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, the field is expected to grow by 15% between 2021 and 2031, with approximately 377,500 job openings per year. Europe is no different. For instance, the European artificial intelligence (AI) industry is projected to achieve an average annual growth of 15.87% between 2024 and 2030, creating a multi-billion dollar industry in the process.
With such explosive growth, one would assume that getting a job in the tech field should be straightforward as long as a student has the appropriate skills.
That’s often not the case.
Though companies have a large appetite for talented and tech-literate students, they typically want to see industry certifications to bolster their formal education qualifications. Here, you’ll discover the impact these certifications can have on your career. Plus, you’ll learn which certifications are the most desirable and how OPIT’s degree programs align with those certifications.
How do Industry Certifications Help?
We start with the big question – are computing industry certifications even relevant?
After all, as a student, you’re already working towards a degree that provides proof that you’re capable in various technical fields. But even with that degree, you may find that employers favor those with specific certifications.
Here are some of the most important reasons.
Showcasing a Willingness to Learn
Obtaining specific certifications outside of your degree shows that you’re willing to continue your education beyond your formal studies. That’s vital. The computer science fields evolve so rapidly that what you learn as part of a degree may be obsolete – or, at best, outdated – within a few years. If you’re not doing everything you can to adapt to these changes, you get left behind. When an employer compares two candidates with the same degree against one another, they’ll invariably go for the one who shows more commitment to keeping their skills sharp.
That’s not all.
Industry certifications also show employers that you can take the theoretical knowledge you develop during a degree into real-life practice. Hence the “industry” part of the phrase. That also leads to the second reason why certifications are so crucial.
Certifications Prepare You for the World of Work
Though a degree program may attempt to emulate real-world environments, it may not fully set you up for the demands industry places on you. You’re working for yourself, rather than a company. Plus, the odds are that your degree may not cover specific applications of your knowledge that would be useful in a real-world setting.
When studying for industry certifications, you engage with courses developed by people who have worked for companies that are like – or adjacent to – the types of companies for which you intend to work. That’s crucial. A certification can prepare you for specific duties or roles you’d be expected to take during your career. The result is that the working world is less of a shock to the system for the student who achieves a certification than it would be for somebody who transitions directly from a degree into industry.
Validation of What You’ve Learned
Validation through industry certifications works on two levels.
For the student, completion of certification serves as proof to themselves that they can put what they’ve learned during their degree course into action. Should you take a certification, you’ll be confronted with real-world scenarios and, often, be tasked with coming up with solutions to problems that real companies faced in the past. When you pass, you’ll know that you have verified proof of your competency within the context of working for a company.
That’s where the second level comes in – validation to a potential employer.
A degree is far from worthless to a potential employer. Most require them for any technical role, meaning you must complete your formal education. However, employers are also aware that many degree programs don’t prepare students for the realities of industry. So, a student who only has a degree on their resume may fall by the wayside compared to one who has an industry certification.
Those who do have certifications, however, have proof of their competency that validates them in the eyes of employers.
The Most Valuable Industry Certifications for Computer Science Students
With the value of industry certifications to supplement your degree established, the next question is obvious:
Which certifications are the most valuable?
You may have dozens to choose from, with the obvious answer being that the certification that’s best for you is the one that most closely aligns with the field you intend to enter. Still, the following are some of the most popular among computing students and recent graduates.
Prince 2 Foundation
Where your degree equips you with computer science fundamentals, the PRINCE2 Foundation course focuses on project management. It can be taken as a three-day course – virtually or in a classroom – that teaches the titular method for overseeing complex projects. Beyond the three-day intensive versions of the course, you can also take an online self-guided version that grants you a 12-month license to the course’s materials.
CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management)
Again focusing on project management, the CAPM can be an alternative or a complement to a PRINCE2 certification. The 150-question exam covers predictive planning methodologies, Agile frameworks, and business analysis. Plus, it’s available in several major European languages, as well as Japanese and Arabic.
Network implementation, operations, and security are the focuses of this course, which equips you with networking skills that apply to almost any industry system. Consider this course if you wish to enter a career in network security, IT support, or if you have designs on becoming a data architect.
AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials
Offered via several platforms, including Amazon Web Services and Coursera, the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course does exactly what it says:
Teaches you the foundations of the AWS cloud.
You’re paired with an expert instructor, who teaches you about the AWS Well-Architected Framework and the models relevant to the AWS cloud. It’s a good choice not just for computer science students, but those who intend to enter the sales, marketing, or project management spheres.
AWS Certified Developer Associate
Where the above course teaches the fundamentals of the AWS cloud, this one hones in on developing platforms within the AWS framework. It’s recommended that you take the essentials course first, gaining experience with AWS tech in the process, and have knowledge of at least one programming language. The latter can come from your degree.
All of the course resources are free, though you do have to pay a fee of $150 to take the 65-question exam related to the certification.
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
Cybersecurity is the focus of the CISSP, with successful students developing proven skills in designing, implementing, and managing high-end cybersecurity programs. You also become an ISC2 member when you receive your CISSP, giving you access to further educational tools and an expansive network you can use to further your career.
CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
Like the CISSP, the CISM is for any student who wants to enter the growing field of cybersecurity. It covers many of the same topics, with the program’s website claiming that 42% of its students received a pay increase upon successful completion of the course.
CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)
Though adjacent to the two cybersecurity programs above, the CRISC focuses more on risk management in the context of IT systems. You’ll learn how to enhance – and demonstrate said enhancement of – business resilience, as well as how to incorporate risk management into the Agile methodology.
CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
When companies implement cybersecurity programs, they need to test them against the hackers that they’re trying to keep away from their data. Enter ethical hackers – professionals who use the same tricks that malicious hackers use to identify issues in a network. With the CEH, you gain an industry qualification that showcases your hacking credentials as it delivers experience in over 500 unique attack types.
Agile and Scrum Certifications
Both Agile and Scrum are management frameworks that have become extremely popular in the computer science field, making certifications in either extremely valuable. The idea with these certifications is to build your technical expertise into an established methodology. For context to why that’s important, consider this – 71% of American companies now use the Agile methodology due to its high success rate.
Where Do OPIT’s Courses Fit In?
If you’re a current or prospective OPIT student, you need to know one thing:
An OPIT degree isn’t the same as one of these industry certifications.
However, all OPIT degree programs are designed to align with the teachings of these certifications. They’re created by professionals who have industry experience – and can build real-world projects into their courses – to ensure that you leave OPIT with more than theoretical knowledge.
Instead, you’ll have a foundation of practical skills to go along with your technical talents, preparing you to take any of these industry certifications later in your career. For instance, our MSc in Enterprise Cybersecurity degree aligns with the CISM and CISSP certifications, meaning you’ll be well-prepared for the concepts introduced in those courses.
An OPIT degree complements the certifications you may need later in your career. If you’re not already an OPIT student, check out our range of online courses – all of which are EU-accredited and career-aligned – to take your first step toward a career in computer science.
For most people, graduating is one of the happiest times of their lives. It means no more exams, no more deadlines, and no more all-nighters. But this feeling of joy and accomplishment can be quickly overshadowed by a fear of an uncertain future. Throw job market pressure and societal expectations into the mix, and the post-graduation joy quickly turns into post-graduation blues.
But there’s no need for this. Just like your educational institution of choice can get you ready for a career in your desired field, you can prepare yourself for the post-graduation journey. The Open Institute of Technology (OPIT) is here to help in both regards.
This article will guide you through your post-graduation journey, allowing you to relax once your graduation comes and you enter the competitive job market. To give you only the most useful advice, we’ve enlisted the help of one of our alums, Francesca Fancoli. She will chime in with her personal experience pre-, during, and post-OPIT. Let’s begin!
1. Follow Your Heart
It’s perfectly understandable if the words “Follow your heart” sound like nothing more than a cliché to you, especially in the cutthroat business world. But the truth is that genuine passion and intuition can be powerful guides.
Take Francesca as an example. Though she previously focused on climate-related issues and sustainability, she became intrigued by the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the corporate world. That’s what brought her to OPIT and our Master in Applied Data Science and AI program.
As long as you continuously pursue a career that challenges and motivates you, you’ll likely find both fulfillment and success. This way, you’ll think of studying as not a mundane task but an adventure, just like Francesca does.
2. Network, Network, Network
Don’t let anyone convince you that “networking” is nothing more than a buzzword. Networking is still very much a valuable and effective way to build meaningful connections, gain insights, and open doors to new opportunities in your professional journey. The only thing that has changed is where networking takes place.
Sure, you can still attend formal networking events and career fairs in person, as this will allow you to build confidence and sharpen your interpersonal skills. But nowadays, you can also leverage the power of virtual networking, connecting with professionals globally through online platforms like LinkedIn.
Study online at OPIT, and you also get the chance to interact with classmates and alums from all over the world. For instance, Francesca comes from Italy, but OPIT students and alums can be found in virtually every corner of the world.
Genuinely getting to know your fellow students, professors, and professionals in your desired field can lead to all sorts of unexpected opportunities, as many job openings don’t even get posted online. Instead, they circulate within enclosed professional networks through word of mouth.
3. Don’t Wait for the Right Opportunity – Create It
This tip ties into the importance of networking. Suppose there’s a person you want to meet or a job you really want. If that’s the case, don’t just sit back and hope for an opportunity to achieve these goals comes your way. Instead, make your own opportunity.
Initiating contact and expressing genuine interest paints you as an assertive, proactive, and driven individual. And these qualities are precisely what many employers and influential professionals value. Plus, thanks to LinkedIn, you can demonstrate all these qualities from the comfort of your own home.
4. Create a Standout CV
Once the time comes to send out your CV (curriculum vitae) to your potential employer(s), you’ll want to ensure the CV in question truly stands out. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should resort to flashy gimmicks whose only value is their shock factor. It means presenting a visually appealing, well-organized, and impactful document that will instantly set you apart from other candidates.
Though there are many factors in creating a standout CV, one is arguably the most important – customize your CV for the job you want. Nothing screams mediocrity more than submitting a generic CV to every job application.
Let’s say you study computer science and AI like Francesca and want to apply for a job in the field. In this case, your CV should showcase specific hands-on projects you’ve worked on during your studies and the technical skills you’ve mastered. You can even include some industry insight to demonstrate your understanding of the current trends and challenges.
For instance, one of the reasons Francesca chose her field of study at OPIT is that she believes that automation can help with “foreseeing risks” and “applying better compliance.”
5. Don’t Stress About the Interview
Obviously, this is easier said than done. It’s perfectly natural to be nervous before a big interview, especially if it’s your first post-graduation. But as long as you remain confident and express genuine interest in the position (and the company), you’ll likely make an excellent impression.
If you’re like Francesca, use the interview to showcase your passion for AI and computer science in general. Talk about your extracurricular activities in the field and all the fun projects you got to work on during your studies.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should forget about the “traditional” interview question. Remember that most interviews are a lengthy process, so prepare yourself for the common questions that might come your way during it.
6. Continuously Educate Yourself
Newsflash – learning doesn’t stop once you graduate. Or at least, it shouldn’t. It’s crucial that you continuously strive to learn new skills, adapt to new technologies, and pursue relevant certifications.
That’s precisely what Francesca did when enrolling in OPIT. She sees her time here as “upskilling,” which will help her conquer the corporate job market.
Even if you land your dream job, keep learning and educating yourself. This will allow you to advance quickly and achieve long-term success in your desired field. And remember not to be too hard on yourself if there’s something you don’t know in your new job, as no one expects you to know everything from the get-go.
7. Don’t Fear a Career Break
A career break is nothing to fear and stress about. In fact, it can be a valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth. Take Francesca as an example, as she used her career breaks wisely – one to start a family and the other to study at OPIT.
8. Embrace Volunteering
Let’s say you can’t find a job for a while. Or, you want to use your career break wisely, like Francesca. Whatever the case, consider volunteering.
Volunteering can help you add relevant job experience to your CV and set you up for a successful career. Best of all? If you attend an online institution like OPIT, you might even have time to volunteer during your studies, making the transition from education to employment substantially smoother.
9. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
It doesn’t matter if you’re currently studying, just graduated, or already in the job market. One thing remains the same – growth happens when you step beyond the familiar.
During studying, challenge yourself to explore different subjects, engage in extracurricular activities, and seek to understand the study materials beyond surface-level comprehension. For instance, during Francesca’s studies, her goal was to “understand the uses of AI in a corporate job and specifically what AI can do for compliance and risk management.”
After graduating and joining the job market, continue seeking opportunities to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. Don’t just stick to what you’ve learned or experienced in school. Even if these new experiences inspire you to change your career path, do it! This turned out great for Francesca, and it will surely be the same for you as long as you remain adaptable and embrace challenges with open arms.
Thanks to the digital age, even moving to another country mid-study is feasible, as you can “take” your studies with you. Just ask the lovely Francesca who moved from Italy to France.
10. Be Patient
Once you graduate, not everything will go your way. You might take a while to land your dream job or advance in your career. You might even start a job only to realize it’s not for you after all. And that’s more than OK. Remember that the best things are worth waiting for, and be easy on yourself while waiting for them.
Of course, if you’ve read all the tips outlined in this article, you won’t be waiting idly. You’ll use this time to better yourself, improve your skills, meet new people, and explore alternative paths. Combine these actions with your formal knowledge, and it’s only a matter of time before you reach the top. But more importantly – you’ll also enjoy your journey up there.
Put Your Trust in OPIT
At OPIT, we have one goal – to help you achieve your dream career. This involves empowering you to excel in your chosen field during and after graduation. If you have any questions about our study programs, contact us directly. We’ll be happy to share more tips from our alumni who have successfully navigated their career paths, just like Francesca.
What does an average day look like for somebody working in cybersecurity?
That isn’t an easy question to answer when you consider the vastness of the field. Somebody who works in cybersecurity needs to stay constantly abreast of industry changes – especially new attacks cooked up by cybercriminals – and help their employers create and tweak their security plans.
However, thanks to Tom, who has developed the Open Institute of Technology’s (OPIT’s) Master’s Degree in Enterprise Cybersecurity, we can provide some insight into what your average day may look like.
Who Is Tom?
Serving as the Program Chair of OPIT’s upcoming Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity, Tom brings a vast amount of practical experience to the table. His work has spanned the globe. Tom has been employed as the Chief Security Officer for a major Croatian bank, in addition to serving as the Chief Information Officer for a company in the United States’ manufacturing sector.
His practical experience spans other industries – including technology and finance – and he’s currently completing a doctorate while running his own practice. Tom’s specialty is the behavioral aspect of cybersecurity. His deep understanding of the “culture” that surrounds the field has been shaped by his work on development strategies, policies, and frameworks for his past employers.
The Importance of Trends
The first thing Tom highlights is that a cybersecurity professional has to follow the trends in the industry. As he points out: “We are living in an era where digital transformation is accelerating, and with it, the complexity and frequency of cyber threats are also increasing.” To demonstrate this, he points to an ISACA report published in 2023 showing that cyber attacks have increased 48% in 2023 compared to 2022. More worryingly, 62% of the organizations that experience these attacks underreport them – an indication that many simply don’t have the talent to truly understand the threat they face.
As a cybersecurity professional, your role is to provide the expertise such companies are sorely lacking.
Thankfully, many business leaders understand that they need this expertise. Tom points out that 59% of leaders say they’re understaffed in the cyber department, leading to a rising demand for people with the following technical skills:
- Identity and access management
- Data protection
- Cloud computing
- DevSecOps (development, security, and operations)
Furthermore, Tom says that artificial intelligence (AI) is completely transforming the cybersecurity industry. While AI is often beneficial to professionals in the field – it can enhance threat detection and response – it is also a danger. Malicious entities can use AI to conduct a new wave of attacks, such as data poisoning, for which you need to be prepared as a cybersecurity professional.
Tom’s discussion of these emerging trends highlights one of the most critical aspects of a day in the life of a cybersecurity professional – learning is key. There is no such thing as static knowledge because the industry (and the attacks your company may face) constantly evolve.
An Average Day Broken Down
Now that you understand how important staying on top of the ever-changing trends in cybersecurity is for those in the field, it’s possible to break things down a little further. On an average day, you may find yourself working on any, some, or even all of the following tasks.
Developing and Maintaining a Cybersecurity Strategy
Given that such a large number of business leaders are understaffed and have minimal access to appropriate talent, you’ll often be tasked with creating and maintaining a company’s cybersecurity strategy.
This strategy is not as simple as creating a collection of actions to take in the event of an attack.
Tom emphasizes not only the importance of proactivity, but also of integrating a cybersecurity strategy into the wider business strategy. “It becomes part of the mission and vision,” he says. “After all, there are two things that are important to companies – their data and customer trust. If you lose customer trust, you lose your business. If you lose your data, you lose your business.”
As a technically adept professional, you’ll be tasked with building a strategy that grows ever more complex as the threats the company faces become more advanced. New technologies – such as AI and machine learning – will be used against you, with your main task being to ensure the strategy you create can fend off such technologically-empowered attacks.
The Simpler Day-to-Day
Now, let’s move away from the complexities of developing an overarching plan and go into more detail about daily responsibilities. A cybersecurity professional is usually tasked with dealing with the day-to-day maintenance of systems.
It’s all about control.
Tom says that much of the role involves proactively identifying new protective measures. For instance, software patching is key – outdated software has vulnerabilities that a hacker can exploit. You’ll need to stay up to date on the development of patches for the software your company uses and, crucially, implement those patches as soon as they’re available.
Creating regular backups is also part of this day-to-day work. It’s an area that many businesses neglect – perhaps assuming that nothing bad can happen to them – but a backup will be a lifesaver if a hacker compromises your company’s main data stores.
Tending to Your Ecosystem
It’s not simply your own institution that you must maintain as a cybersecurity professional – everyone who interacts with that institution must also be managed. Vendors, external software developers, and any other part of your supply chain need to be as risk-aware as your business. As Tom puts it: “If they don’t care about vulnerabilities in their system, and they work for you as a company, then you’ll have an issue because their risk suddenly becomes your risk.”
As such, managing the cyber security aspect of your company’s relationships with its partners is a vital part of your duties. You may engage in planning with those partners, helping them improve their practices, or cooperate with them to create strategies encompassing your entire supply chain.
Tom goes on to highlight just how important continued education is to the success of a cybersecurity professional. “It’s always interesting. And if you’re really passionate about it, cybersecurity becomes your lifestyle,” he says. “You want to see what’s new. What are the new attack methods, what are your competitors doing, and what is new on the market.”
He points to a simple example – phishing emails.
These emails – which were traditionally laden with spelling errors that made them easier to spot – are becoming increasingly hard to detect thanks to the use of AI. They’re written better. Failure to understand and adapt to that fact could make it harder to educate yourself and the people in your company.
Your average day may also involve educating your colleagues about upcoming threats and new attack methods they need to understand. The phishing example Tom shares applies here. Any email that looks somewhat legitimate is a threat, so continued education of your colleagues is essential to stop that threat from having its intended effect.
An Example of a Typical Project
Given how vast the cybersecurity field is, the range of projects you may work on will vary enormously. However, Tom provides an example of when he worked in the banking industry and saw the rise of the Zeus Botnet.
In this case, his responsibilities were twofold.
First – finding a way to defend against botnet attacks. That involved researching the malware to figure out how it spread, allowing him to put protective measures in place to prevent that spread. The second task involved creating educational programs, both for employees and his bank’s clients, to make them aware of the Zeus Botnet.
Here, we see the education part of the cybersecurity professional’s “average day” coming into play, complementing the more technical aspects of dealing with malware. We even see supply chain risk coming into play – each client is part of the bank’s supply chain, meaning they need to understand how to defend themselves just as much as the bank does.
The Qualifications Needed to Work in Cybersecurity
With a multitude of cybersecurity qualifications available – many covering specific niches – it’s tough to find the appropriate one to make you attractive to an employer. That’s where Tom’s work with OPIT comes in. The master’s degree that he’s developing not only focuses on the technical skills a professional needs but places those skills in a business context.
The upcoming course will offer electives in subjects such as AI, cloud security, and IoT security, granting students flexibility to pursue a specialization within their degree. The overall program is also closely aligned to industry certifications – such as those offered by CISSP – to ensure graduates are as industry-ready as they are academically qualified.
The intention, Tom says, is to fill the skills gap that 3 million businesses say they have in cybersecurity. The program provides the right blend of knowledge between technical and managerial skills, in addition to allowing students to pursue subjects of particular interest to them.
Ultimately, it doesn’t teach absolutely everything that you could learn about the industry. No course can. But it does equip you with key foundational knowledge aligned with industry certifications that make you more employable. That, combined with your continued education and completion of relevant certifications once you’re employed, means you have an enormous opportunity to build a successful cybersecurity career with OPIT.
So, the qualifications needed for the industry start with a relevant degree. They then blossom out. Professionals focus on courses that meet the specific requirements of their roles so that they learn the cybersecurity techniques that are most effective for their needs.
Did you know that the world’s first computer programmer was a woman? That’s right, Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer, is widely considered the first person to recognize the potential of a computer. She realized it could go beyond mere calculations and handle symbols and logical operations (besides numbers).
Yet, many scholars still argue that Lovelace’s contributions to the field have been vastly overstated, going as far as denying them altogether. Unfortunately, it all boils down to a belief that a woman “didn’t do, and shouldn’t do, and couldn’t do” such a thing.
Perhaps similar beliefs are the reason why women continue to be underrepresented in the field of computing today. Since Lovelace, many female tech visionaries have made significant and varied contributions to this field. And yet, the gap persists.
Is this how it will always be? Or can something be done to pave the way for a more inclusive future in computing? That’s what this article will explore.
The History of Women in Computing and Computer Science
Ada Lovelace’s work in the mid-19th century laid the foundation for modern computing, earning her the flattering title of “World’s First Computer Programmer.” But she wasn’t the only woman to make monumental contributions to computer science.
To understand the ever-growing push for equality in computing, you must first take a journey throughout history, highlighting some of these women’s most notable (and often overlooked) contributions in this field.
1952: Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper, a U.S. Navy admiral and computer scientist, invented the first computer compiler, translating English instructions into the target computer’s language. Code optimization, formula translation, and subroutines are just some computing developments inspired by Hopper’s groundbreaking work.
That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that the world’s largest gathering of women technologists is named in her honor – the Grace Hopper Celebration.
1962: Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson, one of the women immortalized in the 2016 book and film “Hidden Figures,” was the one to run equations needed for John Glenn’s historic orbital flight in 1962. She would go on to work on other groundbreaking NASA missions, including the Apollo program.
1970s: Adele Goldberg
Though Adele Goldberg has made many contributions to computing, she’s best known for developing the Smalltalk programming language, which was crucial in shaping modern graphical user interfaces.
1985: Radia Perlman
The fact that Radia Perlman is often referred to as the “Mother of the Internet” probably tells you all you need to know about her importance in computing history. Perlman is renowned for inventing the Spanning Tree Protocol, a technology that greatly enhanced the reliability and efficiency of network communication.
1997: Anita Borg
In 1997, a U.S. computer scientist, Anita Borg, founded the Institute for Women in Technology. This institute had (and continues to have) two simple goals – to increase the representation of women in technical fields and enable them to create more technology.
2018: Joy Buolamwini
Joy Buolamwini, currently one of the most influential women in computer science, is primarily known for her groundbreaking graduate thesis uncovering significant racial and gender bias in AI services. She also founded the Algorithmic Justice League, a non-profit organization focusing on making tech more equitable and accountable.
The Present State of Women in Computing and Computer Science
There have undoubtedly been strides in increasing women’s representation in computing and computer sciences. Though it’s challenging to determine what came first, one of the most significant moves in this regard was giving credit where credit’s due.
For instance, the “ENIAC Six,” the six women tasked with programming the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), weren’t initially recognized for their historic contributions. It took decades for this recognition to come, but this doesn’t make it any less monumental.
But even with these recognitions, initiatives, awareness campaigns, and annual events, the gender gap in computing persists. This gap can be seen by examining the number of women in three crucial computing and computer science stages – education, workforce, and leadership.
Today, there’s no shortage of degree programs in computer science, both traditional and online. But one look at the data about the students attending these programs, and you’ll understand the issue. Though more women hold tertiary degrees in the EU, they’re notably absent in computer science-related fields.
The situation in the computing workforce is no better. Currently, women occupy only 22% of all tech roles across European companies, and to make matters worse, this figure is on a downward trajectory.
Just when you think it can’t get any more dismal, take a look at the highest levels of professional leadership in computing and technology. One look at the C-suite (senior executives) stats reveals abysmal figures. For instance, only 9% of the U.K. C-suite leaders are women.
The Reasons Behind the Current State of Women in Computing
By now, you probably agree that something needs to change to address the gender disparity in computing. And it needs to change drastically. But to propose effective solutions, you must first examine the root of the problem.
Though it’s challenging to pinpoint a single explanation for the underrepresentation of women in computing, let’s break down factors that might’ve contributed to the current situation.
The Lack of Women Peers and Mentors
Paradoxically, women might be less willing to enter the computing field due to the lack of visible representation and mentorship. Essentially, this creates a never-ending cycle of underrepresentation, thus only deepening the gender gap.
Societal Stereotypes and Biases
Deep-rooted stereotypes about gender roles can, unfortunately, dissuade women from pursuing computer science. The same goes for stereotyping what average computer scientists look like and how they act (the “nerd” stereotype often reinforced by media).
Fortunately, initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion in computer science are breaking down these stereotypes gradually yet efficiently. The more women join this field, the more preconceived (and misguided) notions are shattered, demonstrating that excellence in computing knows no gender.
Hostile or Unwelcoming Work Environments
It’s well-documented that highly collaborative fields were less welcoming to gender minorities throughout history, and computer science was no different. Though the situation is much better today, some women might still fear working within a predominantly male team due to these lingering concerns from the past.
Numerous studies have shown that precollege girls are less likely to be exposed to various aspects of computing, from learning about hardware and software to dissecting a computer. So, it’s no wonder they might be less inclined to pursue a career in computing after lacking exposure to its foundational aspects.
A Worse Work-Life Balance
Many big tech companies are notorious for long working hours. The same goes for computer science as a field. The result? Some women might perceive this field as too demanding and impossible to reconcile with raising a family, leading them not to consider it.
How to Change the Curve
Though the past might’ve seemed bleak for women in computing, the present (and future) hold promise for positive change. Of course, no fundamental changes can happen without collective commitment and decisive action. So, what can be done to change the curve once and for all and promote greater gender diversity in computing?
Striving to Remove the Barriers
So, you believe women should experience all the opportunities that come with a career in computing. But this can only be done by actively addressing and eliminating the barriers impeding their progress in the field.
This means launching campaigns to dismantle the deep-rooted stereotypes, introducing policies to create supportive working (and learning) environments, and regularly recognizing and celebrating women’s achievements in computing.
Making the Field Exciting for Women
Educational institutions and companies also must pull their weight in making the computing field more appealing to women despite the existing challenges. This might involve hands-on and collaborative learning, showcasing diverse role models in the field (e.g., at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing), and establishing mentorship programs.
Relying on Mutual Support
As long as women have a strong enough support system, they can conquer anything, including the often daunting field of computer science. Here are some organizations that can provide just that: (See if you can spot some familiar individuals in their names!)
Other than that, women now have access to a whole host of resources and opportunities they can use to advance their knowledge and excel in the field. These include the following:
- Coding bootcamps
- Career fairs for women in tech
- STEM scholarships
Gaining Access to Education
Allowing equal access to education to women might be the most crucial element in changing the curve. After all, proper education serves as a direct gateway to opportunities and empowerment in computer science (and beyond).
With the popularization of online studying, many of the obstacles (both actual and perceived) that traditionally hindered women’s involvement in computing have disappeared. Now, women can learn about (and engage in) computer science from the comfort of their own homes, going at their own pace.
That’s precisely a part of the reason Alona, a Latvian student at the Open Institute of Technology, chose to pursue online education in computer science. Even with two children and a job (and a Bachelor’s degree in linguistics), she can find time to study and potentially earn her degree in as little as two years. Talk about an outstanding work-life balance!
When pursuing a degree in computer science at the OPIT, there are no hostilities, inadequacies, or barriers, only boundless opportunities.