On May 23, 2003 I happily walked down the aisle with my black robe on to accept my degree in Computer Science. I winked at my friend Katy as I walked passed – she was the other woman who graduated with a computer science major that year.
Katy and I were anomalies in our classes. We had an affinity for math and system thinking. Neither of us had ever coded before we got to college, and we were up against our male counterparts, many of whom tinkered with their own home networks (this was before wifi was prevalent), programmed their own apps, and setup their own databases. I felt so far behind and somewhat alone. I grew up on a farm; we didn’t get a computer until my junior year in high school. I was fascinated with the dot com boom and I wanted to be a part of this world of technology.
During those college years guys would ask me what I was majoring in and I would respond “computer science.” I could see the look in their eyes as they were seemingly judging me – that it seemed “weird” to them to have a girl in a tech field. For some reason, this was a big deal to me. I was too impressionable at the time and didn’t realize that the power to create the future was in front of me.
Luckily, changing majors just wasn’t an option; once I put my mind to something I do it. I had help along the way. My college internship was an incredibly valuable experience. Again, I worked with only men, and they were thoughtful mentors who exposed me to different careers in tech, taught me about servers, security, and SQL statements.
Fast-forward 11 years to earlier this month and there I was- meeting hundreds of brilliant women happily touting their Computer Science degrees at this year’s Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, AZ. I smiled ear to ear as I learned about their favorite classes, how they were anxious to graduate, how they were looking for internships, experienced roles, or just wanted to learn more.
Being at Grace Hopper you wouldn’t think that there is a supply problem with women engineers- but the data is astoundingly imbalanced. In 2012, only 18% of computer grads were women. Women make up 57% of the work force, but only 25% in the tech industry. Until this is balanced out women may at times be faced with situations like I was in the beginning of my career: feeling like one among many, uncertain what to talk about, feeling as though society doesn’t understand why you would be in tech.
Ladies, the fact of the matter is this: you are savvy. You know that the future’s cornerstone is digital. I commend you. By learning all you can about technology, you’re solidifying your role in the act of creation – in the future. Choosing a career in technology is one of the most creative things that you can do. Keep it up.
At Target, we are committed to ensuring we have a diverse workforce – and that includes diversity of thought. We realize that the future of retail looks dramatically different than it does today and we are looking for people who want to be a part of that movement – those who have the power to dream and do, those who are curious and ambitious. Start-ups have led the way in technology as of late, but sadly, women are outnumbered there too. When women in engineering are asked why they leave or don’t even join start-ups, they often explain that it’s just too risky. Happily, working in digital at Target is like working at a start-up, but with the comfort and stability of a big company. It wasn’t always like that, but like any successful company, we’ve adapted to better and more nimble ways of doing things that make it extremely fulfilling.
Women often cite a lack of female role models within technology; they don’t know how to model their careers because not many women have gone before them. Thankfully, Target is full of incredible female (and male!) role models — from analysts to executives. I admire their careers and their capabilities every day. The idea is: the possibilities are endless. The ability to shape your career and the future is in your hands, and there are so many people to help you with it. Target’s career development programs are fulfilling and inspiring. One just has to have the willingness to learn and continuous curiosity in order to create the career they desire – whatever form that may take.
To the Grace Hopper attendees: thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and your intelligence with Target. I am excited for you and looking forward to the future that you will create.
Post by Sarah- Cartwheel Product Lead at Target Headquarters
Sarah is responsible for both the technical and business advancement of our Cartwheel mobile savings tool. She was recently named as a “25 Women to Watch in Mobile”.
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