A Google image search for the terms “computer scientist” or “software engineer” returns thousands of images, the majority of which depict young to middle-aged men. This set of homogenous images is sadly an accurate reflection of the lack of gender diversity in a field that often ostracizes women and that does too little to encourage women to break in.
Women make up a small minority of the tech industry. Google and Apple recently revealed that just 30% of their workforce are women. The well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson shared that only 3% of the investment pitches he hears are from women, a stat he hopes to change.
Part of the problem is cultural. Without role models or mentors, women can’t picture themselves becoming engineers or leading companies, so they don’t aspire to.
In Walter Isaacson's new book The Innovators, he tells the story of the oft-forgotten Ada Lovelace, the 19th century engineer, who wrote the first algorithm and essentially invented artificial intelligence. The editors of a 1843 scientific journal decided a man should sign her work.
Women continue to be written out of the science and technology story today. Popular depictions of the now booming tech industry, like “Silicon Valley” and “The Social Network,” celebrate images of the brogrammer, the hoodie-clad young computer genius, as the archetypal male, often drooling over hot women. ( Has anyone seen the offensive site CodeBabes? Enough said. )
“If women had been more prominently talked about in computing, both in the history books and schools, we literally would not have the lack of women programmers that we do today,” Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive of Girls Who code, recently told the New York Times. “It’s about role models. You can’t be what you cannot see.”
Your job here is to craft a set of icons so that people can see. See what women have accomplished. See what stereotypes women have overcome. See what women will accomplish going forward as it helps transform an industry that finally admits it has a gender problem. Let these icons help represent women’s place in technology because, as we’ve seen in the past, images can help shape both our understanding of the past and the direction of our future.
Doodle - Sketching with paper and pen/pencil will get your creative juices flowing and can help you generate some great ideas.
Design - Take a picture of your best drawing(s) and open it in Illustrator to reference as you create your icon (optional). Start by creating a 100x100 pixel artboard to design your icon on. Use the pen tool, basic shapes and strokes to create your icon. Do not use any colors, only black. If you use strokes in your design, make sure they are converted to fill shapes before you save the file. The largest dimension of your final design should be 90 pixels or smaller and should not go outside the artboard.
Save & Upload - Be sure to save your file as an SVG and select “use artboards”. Create an account on The Noun Project if you haven’t already. Upload the SVG to the “Women in Tech” collaborative collection page. Give your icon a proper title and add associated tags that will help your icon appear in search results. Congrats, you’re done!