Laura Dillon is a professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University. Forbes recently wrote about the important work she is doing with the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Their research into the public and academic forces preventing women from participating more fully in technology based careers has been critical to both economically empowering women and filling open tech jobs.
“It's predicted that the United States will have one million unfilled computing jobs by 2024, and our colleges and universities are not producing enough people with the skills to fill those jobs,” says Dillon.
“It's not just women who are being left out of the picture; it's men of color and Hispanics, too. So partly the issue is that these are great jobs. Polls are conducted every year of the best jobs in America and computing jobs are always right near the top.
“And it's not just a matter of compensation. It's also looking at the satisfaction with the job, the feeling that you're actually contributing to society and have control over your own destiny, and that you're doing productive work. If employers can't find people here to fill these jobs, they're going to look elsewhere. So, it's a missed opportunity if we don't get more people the skills they need to do these jobs.
“It's also an issue of economic competitiveness, not just from the standpoint of having people to fill the jobs, but also there's been a lot of research that's shown that diverse teams are much more productive and they come up with more creative solutions. They come up with solutions that work for everybody. So there's a lot of evidence that in order for U.S. companies to be economically competitive, they have to have everyone at the table, not just a narrow slice of the population.”
Dr. Dillon describes all that MSU’s College of Engineering is doing on many fronts to direct more girls and women into technology fields.
“Computing is becoming the new math, if you will. It’s a basic infrastructure. In order to be prosperous and to contribute to society, you need to know something about computing and programming. So it’s important to get students exposed to computing starting in elementary school and continuing all the way through high school and beyond. Working at that at the national level is what we need to be doing.”
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