The key to more women in technology? Men.

July 20, 2014

I’ve read much, and listened to many debate the reasons why we don’t see more women in the technology field. The solution is likely multivariate, yet I feel there is one key theme that isn’t getting the attention it should. Namely, men need to take responsibility to create a culture of inclusion for women in the tech space.

Whenever the topic comes up, we tend to ask the women in the group to respond to how we can “fix” things, leaving the men out of the dialog. Or maybe I should say, letting the men off the hook.

I didn’t intend to pick up the crusade of getting more women in critical roles in technology, it occurred out of common sense and necessity. It is less important how I came to believe passionately about this issue, it is more important that I actively support it. Anyone taking a pragmatic approach to hiring the best and brightest will realize that we are missing a large part of the population if women remain under-represented. I’ve come to believe and champion many initiatives to get young girls interested in math, science and computers.

Beginning at an early age helps to foster interest and ease the societal barriers that prevent more girls from taking science-related classes. Ultimately, we all need women’s brains, talents and creativity in the technology field. Simply put, your product or service deserves the best talent, regardless of the gender.

Numerous publicized reports show a significant gap in degrees earned for computer science and the expected unfulfilled demand for jobs requiring these skills. Many of these studies show the declining trend in women entering into formal education for computer and other science degrees. Salaries for these positions tend to be some of the most lucrative, and the future is bright for those who choose to design and implement the technology of the future. We all need to do whatever we can to make sure we’re giving women an equal shot at creating technology and not just being consumers of it.

Men need to create a climate where sexism, dismissiveness and prejudices are not tolerated. More than this, male leaders need to be active and engage in creating a culture of inclusion and participation.

While many companies have a women’s network, and even though the majority of topics apply to all people, I bet they lack significant male participation. The next time you hear there is a meeting of the women’s network, attend and participate in the dialog about what you can do.

Employing more women in technology is a responsibility we all have.

James LaPlaine is senior vice president of technology operations for AOL. He supports the Girls Excelling in Math and Science Club Initiative, a network of groups that encourages girls in grades three to eight to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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