Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend an intimate townhall with Ivanka Trump where we discussed workplace issues like Paid Leave (IWF’s longtime interest). We also discussed the need for more skill trade training (example: construction) instead of exclusively focusing on 4-year degrees that often leave graduates inadequately trained for the current workforce demands, in debt, and completely frustrated. Ms. Trump shared an interesting statistic: There are currently 6 million skilled jobs available that are sadly vacant because people are simply not qualified and trained to fill them. IWF agrees that skills training is vital to a healthy economy.
Ms. Trump also said that women are underrepresented in STEM/computer science fields and the administration will be focusing on grants geared towards schools across the country to implement more computer science training, including coding. As IWF has written before ( here and here, for instance), this “gap” isn’t necessarily a problem for government to solve. It may be primarily a result of men and women having different preferences. Yet one way to encourage more women to consider these fields is to make sure that they understand their many advantages. And here is one aspect of the computer science field that is often overlooked: Flexibility.
Consider my own story.
Eight years ago, I was happily employed at a non-profit in Washington. I worked 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the office – a familiar scenario for many folks. After having my first baby, I quickly realized that a 9-6 job was not my ideal situation and that I had to find new talents that allowed me some flexibility so I could spend more time at home with my children. By the grace of God, I had the opportunity to learn basic coding and successfully (often in my basement at 2:00 a.m., coffee in hand, while my babies were peacefully sleeping) generated several APPS that I’m proud to say did quite well on Amazon. Although coding is not my passion, it is always nice to have a skill to fall back on if needed.
Whether you are like me who worked in the middle of the night in my basement to make ends meet or simply want the ability to work from a balcony in the sunshine, the computer science field can offer that opportunity for women and men alike.
It is important to point out that there are many professions that allow for a work from anywhere environment (I currently am sitting at a coffee shop, for instance) and keeping flexibility in the workplace should stay a top priority. Whether you work as a computer scientist, a writer, accountant, engineer, mom, or all of the above, we all should be thankful that we have opportunities for choice and flexibility to find what works best for our families. Let’s not tamper with this freedom by enacting unnecessary one-size-fits all workplace regulations that ultimately hurt the very people they are supposed to help. Ms. Trump received our Working for Women Report that offers specific policy reforms that give women greater opportunity to flourish. Based on the conversation with Ms Trump yesterday, I’m hopeful the current administration will consider our proposals for making life better for working women.