Opinion: A 'Sputnik' moment for women in technology

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Susan Wojcicki: A 'Sputnik' moment for women in technology By Susan Wojcicki Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT) October 26, 2015 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Susan Wojcicki – Susan Wojcicki is the chief executive of YouTube. Hide Caption 1 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Sheryl Sandberg – Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook's chief operating officer, overseeing the social media mammoth's business operations -- which includes sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. Hide Caption 2 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Marissa Mayer – Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer is a major figure in the tech industry. She started out at Google in 1999 as its first female engineer. Hide Caption 3 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Ursula Burns – Starting as an intern in 1980, Ursula Burns is now chair of Xerox, a $23 billion global business with almost 140,000 employees. Hide Caption 4 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Cher Wang – Cher Wang, is the co-founder and chairwoman of HTC Corporation, Taiwan's leading tech business. Hide Caption 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Virginia M. Rometty is the chief executive officer and chairwoman of IBM. Hide Caption 6 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Meg Whitman – Meg Whitman is the president and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard. She was previously the head of eBay. Hide Caption 7 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Safra Catz – Safra Catz has been an executive at Oracle Corporation since April 1999, and a board member since 2001. She is now chief financial officer and co-president of the company. Hide Caption 8 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Sandy Carter serves as IBM's worldwide general manager, ecosystem development and social business and is one of the key leaders responsible for setting the direction for IBM's social business initiative. Hide Caption 9 of 10 10 photos: Women leaders in tech Women tech leaders: Angela Ahrendts – Angela Ahrendts served as chief executive of Burberry for many years. In October 2013, Apple announced that Ahrendts would join the company as a retail executive, overseeing the strategic direction, expansion and operation of both Apple retail and online stores. Hide Caption 10 of 10 Story highlights Susan Wojcicki: The dearth of women in tech should be a wake-up call -- a Sputnik moment for America She says the United States should offer computer science class to every student and eventually make it mandatory Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube. She was previously senior vice president of advertising and commerce at Google. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. (CNN) My daughter was 10 years old when she told me she hated computers. As someone who has spent her career helping build one of the largest tech companies in the world, I was in shock. Suddenly an issue I faced repeatedly at work — the lack of women in tech — hit squarely at home. The story may sound familiar: We had one computer at home and in my daughter's words, my son "had conquered it." For good measure, she added that it was "super lame" to like computers and she had better things to do in her busy life. Today, this same pattern is playing out in homes throughout America. Girls are being left out of the conversation when it comes to technology, led to think of tech as insular and antisocial without ever being given a chance to correct those perceptions. Despite earning the majority of bachelor's degrees, women earn only 12.9% of computer science degrees , according to the Computing Research Association. These statistics have serious implications for our economy and for women at large. By 2020, jobs in computer science are expected to grow nearly two times faster than the national average, totaling nearly 5 million jobs . Yet today, women hold only 26% of all tech jobs, according to the American Association of University Women. Read More The fact that women represent such a small portion of the tech workforce shouldn't just be a wake-up call -- it should be a Sputnik moment. The tech industry is not America's future; it is our present. From manufacturing to health care to agriculture to the arts, technology is revolutionizing every industry at an unprecedented pace, remaking the world in its wake. If women don't participate in tech, with its massive prominence in our lives and society, we risk losing many of the economic, political and social gains we have made over decades. We'd be setting ourselves back in an era when we should be solidifying and strengthening our progress. That's why I was so encouraged to see Mayor Bill de Blasio call for all New York schools to offer computer science courses within the next 10 years. Not only will this help the city's students prepare and compete for future jobs, it will have an outsize effect on women, minorities and the poor, who have the least access to computer science education. The only way we can address the problem of women in tech while preparing our students for a competitive future is for more states and districts to follow New York City's lead and offer computer science to every student in the United States with the eventual goal of making it mandatory . Related: Molding the next generation of computer scientists Already some large districts have instituted similar proposals. In San Francisco, the Board of Education voted to offer CS from prekindergarten through high school and to make it mandatory through eighth grade by the 2016-17 school year. And in Chicago, the city has pledged to make a yearlong CS course a high school graduation requirement by 2018. Other countries are beginning to institute similar standards. Last year, the United Kingdom became the first country in the European Union to mandate computer science classes for all children between 5 and 16 years old, with Italy soon following suit. And Israel and South Korea have some of the most rigorous computer science curriculums in the world. It's undeniably true that many schools are strapped for resources and consistently face budget challenges. But according to research Google commissioned with Gallup, nine out of 10 parents see CS as a good use of school resources and two-thirds think it should be required learning. That view only gets stronger among lower-income households. If we don't make CS a priority by requiring schools to offer it, we risk making gender, class and racial gaps worse as income and opportunity flow to students who are given the chance to sit behind a computer. My daughter loves computers now. I enrolled her in an all-girl coding camp where she started to see that technology could make her own world better. It's a heartwarming story in my household. But unless we act to make sure CS is offered in every school, millions of girls throughout America will never have the same opportunity. 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Emmy Noether , right, is featured in the March 23, 2015 Google doodle in commemoration of what would be her 133rd birthday. The math wizard came up with an algebraic theorem that connected two fundamental laws of physics. Noether's Theory is seen by some to be as important as Albert Einstein's theory of relativity . In fact, Einstein considered Noether to be the most significant female mathematician.Harvard professor Lisa Randall , left, researches theoretical particles and cosmology . By connecting the ideas about theoretical particles to the questions about the universe that physicists have yet to answer, she has developed new understanding about dark matter and extra dimensions in space. Click through the gallery for more women pioneers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and their modern counterparts. Hide Caption 1 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Grace Murray Hopper, an American computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (right), created Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL.) She also coined the term "debugging" in reference to fixing a computer.She paved the way for other females in computer science, including Katherine Yelick , left, a University of California, Berkeley, computer science professor, and director for the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center -- a high-performance computing facility that helps scientists run tests. One of the computers in the facility is named after Hopper. Hide Caption 2 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – The work of solar astronomer Mitzi Adams , left, has improved our understanding of the sun's turbulent behavior. Since joining NASA in 1988 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, she has conducted research for a variety of solar missions. She carries on the tradition of discovery that Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) began in the late 1800s. Cannon was known as the "census taker in the sky," and developed a stellar classification system that became the standard of the Harvard Observatory. Hide Caption 3 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Sara Seager, left, can measure outer space. An astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT , her research led, in part, to the first detection of light emitted by an exoplanet, a planet outside our solar system. She now focuses on characterizing all aspects of exoplanets, from theoretical models of their atmospheres to detecting the growth of a constellation. She continues the kind of work astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt did. Leavitt, right, discovered a relationship between the brightness and fluctuation of stars, as seen from Earth, that became the basis of astronomers' ability to measure the distance between Earth and other galaxies. Hide Caption 4 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – American physician and NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison, left, became the first black woman to travel in space in 1992. As an astronaut, Jemison served as a liaison between the astronaut corps and launch operations at Kennedy Space Center, according to her biography . She also flew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in the first joint mission with the Japanese Space Agency. Fellow astronaut Sally Ride, right, helped pave the way for Jemison's career: In 1983, she flew to space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, becoming the first American woman (and, at 32, the youngest American) to enter space. She flew on Challenger again in 1984 and later was the only person to serve on both panels that investigated the nation's space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003. Ride died in December 2012 . Hide Caption 5 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Shafi Goldwasser, left, is one of the world's leading cryptology and complexity theory experts . A professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT as well as a professor of mathematical sciences for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, her work has allowed secure information to be sent over the Internet. Ada Byron Lovelace , right, helped make Goldwasser's research possible by conceiving the first algorithm that could be processed by a machine. Lovelace is largely seen as the world's first computer programmer. Hide Caption 6 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Nuclear chemist Darleane Hoffman , left, specializes in heavy elements like plutonium. She was part of a team that focused on confirming the discovery of Seaborgium, element 106. Her research has revealed new aspects of fission and atomic processes, and she was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1997. The discoveries of Marie Curie (1867-1934) were similarly focused: Her observations of radiation suggested a relationship between radioactivity and the heavy elements of the periodic table. Curie's painstaking research with her husband, Pierre, culminated in the isolation of two new, heavy elements -- polonium, which they named for Marie's homeland, and the naturally glowing radium. Hide Caption 7 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Meave Leakey, zoologist and long-time head of the Tigoni Primate Research Centre's Division of Paleontology, is part of the Leaky scientist dynasty in Kenya. Her family has been responsible for groundbreaking work in the discovery of early human fossils and the concept of human evolution. Leakey carries on the grand tradition of Mary Anning , who has been called "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew." She grew up in Great Britain's Lyme Regis, a shoreline full of Jurassic fossils. Anning and her family found the first ichthyosaur fossil specimen and Anning is credited with finding the first plesiosaurus, the first pterodactylus macronyx in Britain and the squaloraja fish fossil. Hide Caption 8 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Wings Women of Discovery award winner Alexandra Morton knows more about orca and dolphin migration and communication than just about anyone else in the world. She helped create the first photo catalog of dolphins. She now fights to protect wild salmon populations from the impact of farm fishing. Her accomplishments are widely acknowledged, something that did not come as easily for Rosa Smith Eigenmann, right, the first female Ichthyologist "of any accomplishments," according to marine biologist Carl L. Hubbs . Eigenmann discovered the blind goby fish in San Diego as a young woman. She raised five children and managed to formally describe 150 species of fish with her husband. She ended her career after his death in 1927. Hide Caption 9 of 10 10 photos: Famous women in history The historical analogs of brilliant women – Biological researcher Elizabeth Blackburn was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering (along with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak) how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. Recognition of the importance of her discoveries was something that fellow scientist Rosalind Franklin did not achieve, even though there are many who believe that without Franklin, James Watson and Francis Crick would not have formed their 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. The British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix . Hide Caption