"This is a huge problem for our country. We have over a half-million jobs open right now in the United States in tech. ... They're in all different industries, in manufacturing, in retail, in health care, et cetera, and so we need more people to train. What's interesting about the tech jobs is they pay 50 percent more than the average American private-sector salary. They're incredibly attractive but supply and demand's not working," she said.
To address the issue, her team is promoting TechHire, its multisector initiative to help Americans gain the skills they need through universities, community colleges, "coding boot camps" and online courses. But perhaps the biggest challenge is a cultural one — an unconscious bias against women. "People when they're interviewing, they're like 'you are like me,' they're sort of pattern-mapping a certain group and then assuming another group doesn't want to come in."
There's also the issue that women aren't represented as leaders in the field, which she's trying to address by promoting the history of women at the forefront of computer science.
"Through the '80s women used to be 40 percent of the computer science industry at IBM and Intel and all the early companies. It has dropped to the teens. And it's because during the '80s as the personal computer industry started we sort of said these are for our boys and husbands," said Smith. "So we want to make sure we shift off the bias."