There is little debate that the banking jobs of the future are in digital technology. The question is who will fill them and how many of these jobs will be filled by women.
As a result, issues related to women in banking find parallels with the gender gap in the information technology sector. According to research from the National Center for Women & Technology, women held the vast majority of all professional occupations in 2015. However, only 25% of all computing occupations were held by women — a percentage that has, for the most part, been on the decline since 1991.
We, as an industry of both bankers and tech specialists, need to help reverse this trend by reaching out to young women well before their college years — a time period when many of them have already formed their interests and intended career paths.
The opportunity to spark an interest in technology careers exists at an earlier age, when we can ignite new passions and interests while they are still taking shape.
Educators are onboard. The growth and pervasiveness of technology means that there are all kinds of technology jobs out there across multiple industries — from banking to retail, media to nonprofits, and much more. Realizing the opportunities for their students, educators are exploring new ways to bring students into closer contact with the real-world tools and experiences that can show them all of the possibilities technology has to offer. It's here where banks can and should step in to help inspire an interest in a field with a shortage of applicants.
Throughout their K-12 education, we need to expose girls and young women to the possibilities and joys of working in technology and break through the myths that "IT is not for me." We can inspire enthusiasm for the profession by demoing the latest gadgets, like the Apple Watch, or helping young girls build robotic projects.
It is one thing to hear about technology jobs, but it is another thing to experience the excitement of using technology to solve real-world problems. When we introduce them to new technology fields at a young age, young girls become excited about pursuing the careers in the future.
New research published by the Computing Technology Industry Association found that 69% of girls and 72% of boys attribute their lack of interest in pursuing an IT career to being unsure of what IT jobs entail, for instance.
At Citi, we are focused on helping to cultivate young talent through FUTURE | Women in I.T., a mentoring and internship program to give high school students a chance to practice technology roles and gain hands-on experience in robotics with local technology companies.
Many of the students we talk to in the schools — who plan to go to colleges and universities — had never thought about studying engineering or computer science simply because of a lack of exposure to what a job in that field really means. For example, we were surprised and delighted to learn that many young girls in our program said they were interested in tech careers. Surveys showed that, following our presentations, interest in pursuing careers in tech rose by 21%.
In banking and beyond, the future belongs to those who master technology and digital skills. That future can — and must — include women. However, it will not happen unless we reach girls and young women at an earlier age than college years and equip them with the IT tools they need to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.
Yolande Piazza is chief operating officer for Citi FinTech.
Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series looking at gender and diversity issues in banking and finance. For more on this subject, see previous posts in this series from Ghela Boskovich, David Casper, and Sam Maule, and visit American Banker's Women in Banking page.