How to get women into cloud computing

Women in cloud computing: It’s no longer just about social justice, it’s about corporate survival

How to get women into cloud computing
PeopleImages / Getty Images

The push to get more women in computing is decades old. I remember back in my college professor days they did studies on why there are fewer woman in computer science and information systems studies. We have made little progress since.

With the inflection point of new compute trends, such as cloud computing, the need for entry-level talent has also inflected. Everyone is hiring. There’s a shortage. And the solution to this issue is easy: We need to recruit more women into computer jobs, especially cloud computing.

And we should be able to do so. Today is different than when I was a college professor. College Class of 2017 reports that, “based on Department of Education estimates, women will earn a disproportionate share of college degrees at every level of higher education in 2017 for the 11th straight year.” Overall, women in the Class of 2017 will earn 141 college degrees for every 100 men (up from 139 last year). Also, there will be a gap of 659,000 college degrees in favor of women for this year’s college graduates.

So, if the pool of cloud computing professionals come out of the ranks of college graduates, the number of men is decreasing while the number of women is exploding. That’s why recruiting women is such a no-brainer.

This is not an affirmative action issue for enterprises; it’s pure survival. Indeed, if companies cannot keep up with cloud computing, they are likely to fall behind. To keep up, you need key cloud computing talent to solve real business and technical problems using cloud-based resources.

So, how do you get more women into cloud computing? Here’s my perspective as a man:

First, understand the business benefit behind this effort. While the social outcome is progressive, I would prefer that businesses look at this from a bottom-line perspective, because that reason sticks. If you don’t get more women into cloud computing, you won’t have enough people to drive the shift to cloud. Thus, you won’t have the efficiency and agility advantages, and you’ll die the death of a thousand cuts in the next several years.

Second, this is partly a PR problem. Many women who don’t go into computer jobs look upon this as a career path for “geeky males,” and so they believe the culture and work environment won’t be “female-friendly.” Many companies have taken steps to fix this, and they should publicize the fact they are not those stereotypical boy’s clubs. (And, yes, there are organizations that have not addressed the cultural and structure issues that need to be changed, which really benefit both sexes. They still need to do so; PR won’t fix the issue where it’s still real.)

Third, equal pay should be the norm. There needs to be an effort to ensure that woman and men are compensated the same amount, for the same work. In many respects, woman and men are paid based on their ability to negotiate salary when obtaining a job. There really should be some market formula that we use instead that is dynamic to changing demand.

Fourth, we need to provide a clear path and free resources. Cloud providers such as AWS, Google, and Microsoft have all donated some resources and funding to get more women interested in cloud computing. This kind of effort will be needed for a while to change the industry directions.

Women in the cloud: It’s no longer about social justice, it’s about corporate survival.