UNO IT school looks to improve Omaha women’s tech opportunities


By Brooke Criswell, Contributor

Recently, Omaha made the list out of 54 cities that had a population of 200 thousand or more residents of best cities for women in technology fields.

Omaha was the last, coming in at the 54th best place. The ranking was collected by the number of jobs women held in the computer field,the annual income for women in the computer field, the three-year growth for women between 2010 and 2013 and the pay gap between men and women. The data was collected from 2013 and the ranking was made by SmartAsset.

As part of an overall effort to change and close the gender gap, UNO hosted an event for high school girls called Code Crush. 36 spots were filled out of the 115 students that applied. There was a 50 percent increase of applicants compared to last years’ event. The students took part in learning about cyber security, bioinformatics and IT innovations. They also had guest speakers from female entrepreneurs to business leaders to bring inspiration.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will 4.2 million jobs in computing and information technology in the United States by the year 2020. Despite the growth in the technology field, women will only comprise 25 percent of all computer-related careers and occupations.

UNO offers multiple courses in technology but one that is always quick to fill up is CSCI 1200, Computer Science Principles. This current semester there are five females in a class of 30, which is 16 percent. This is common across the field.

“I think in general, guys see a computer as a toy—that’s why they find technology interesting,” said junior Kelly Bast, a student in Computer Science Principles. “As girls, we simply use computers as an instrumental tool. That’s why I think computer science is a more male-dominated discipline.”

According to the ranking by SmartAsset, 21.4 percent of computer jobs in Omaha were taken by women. Washington, D.C came in first on the ranking of best cities for women in tech field with 37 percent of computer jobs being filled by women.

In the U.S., the pay gap is 86 percent compared to men in the technology field. In Omaha, that number is decreased to 73.5 percent to men.

In all of the 54 cities included in the ranking, there were only two of which women were paid equal to or more than men. The cities were Kansas City, Missouri and Arlington, Texas.

Omaha saw about an 11 percent increase between 2010 and 2013 for women, however it is still not equal.

“I think it’s unfair that women are being paid less than men,” Bast said. “If they are working at the same rate and making meaningful advances in the technology field, they should receive equal pay.”

Omaha also opened a coding school in November 2013. The school is open from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. and students are hirable after the 12-week course. Between the weeks, they learn anything from web design to back end development.

“Our goal is to reach out to under-represented communities,” Director of Operations Beth Haubert said.“Since the career field is 75 percent men, we offer a variety of scholarships to encourage women to join.”

Last session, seven out of the 16students were female.

Omaha may be last on SmartAsset’s list, but step by step, there are changes being made throughout the community to close the gender gap in technology.


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