Despite strides made in recent decades toward equality, there are certain jobs that continue to be dominated by workers of a particular gender. Nurses are overwhelming female while, as Laine Fleszar could tell you, computer professionals are largely men.
Laine was one of only two females in a class of students learning about becoming IT technicians at Kent Career Technical Center last year. The 17-year old Lowell High School student notes the experience was sometimes uncomfortable as her male classmates didn’t always have pleasant remarks for their female counterparts. However, that only made Laine more determined to excel in the class.
She did that by becoming the first female KCTC student, in anyone’s remembrance, to earn an A+ Certification. The professional certification is the entry-level credential for those planning to work as an IT technician. Laine is more interested in audio technology, but she decided to take the A+ Certification test anyway. “The only reason I did it was to show the guys I could,” she says.
In doing so, she has not only gained valuable skills but also taken one more step to breaking down the gender barriers that exist in some professions.
Computing: A Man’s World
It isn’t surprising that Laine was outnumbered by boys in her IT class. Computer science professions are dominated by men.
Women made up only 26 percent of the computing workforce in 2017, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. The numbers are even lower for minority women with Hispanic females making up a mere one percent of the computing workforce last year.
When asked why girls aren’t more interested in IT, Laine says she thinks they are. “I definitely think girls are into tech,” she says. “They’re just not on the Geek Squad.” Companies like the Geek Squad provide IT support, and Laine says that’s not a role she sees many girls pursuing. Plus, she thinks early technology applications – such as video games – were marketed to boys which makes them more inclined to pursue a career in the field.
From Laine’s perspective, girls like technology but aren’t necessarily interested in troubleshooting problems with hardware and software. Instead, they enjoy working with technology in terms of film, music and similar applications.
That’s where Laine’s interests lie. She’s loves audio technology and has not only volunteered her talents for high school theater productions but has also been hired to work at community events. Among other things, she was recently a stage manager for the Traverse City Film Festival.
One of the Few to Achieve Certification
A+ Certification isn’t directly related to Laine’s career goals in audio technology, but she saw the class as offering valuable knowledge. “You should know how your machines work,” she says.
Jonathan Rilley, the class instructor at KCTC, was impressed by Laine’s decision to broaden her horizons by studying for the certification, which is often pursued by those planning a career as an IT technician. “It is not her career choice,” he says, “[but] she understands those skills can help her no matter what.”
Within the class, Laine excelled, and she was chosen to take the certification test. “We don’t let everyone take it,” Rilley says. At a cost of $500, KCTC limits the test to those who appear prepared to pass it. Only about a quarter of students take the test and of those, about 80 percent pass.
The certification test is split into two exams. The first deals with computer hardware while the second is focused on operating systems including Windows, iOS, Android and Linux. “We’ve had females take the first part and pass,” Rilley says, “but not the second.” Laine is the first female student at KCTC that anyone can remember who passed both sections and earned the A+ Certification.
Rilley adds that the exams cover so much material that it can’t all be covered in class. In fact, CompTIA, the company offering the tests, recommends those who take the exams have 9-12 months of professional experience first. To make up for a lack of work experience and the gaps in material covered in class, it’s up to students to study independently.
Now that Laine has A+ Certification under her belt, she plans to take an additional computing class at KCTC this fall. The Lowell senior isn’t sure where she’ll go for college after high school, but the program at Middle Tennessee State University has piqued her interest. Regardless of where she attends school, Laine plans to continue to pursue her interest in technology and prove that while women may be a minority in computing professions, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of excelling in technology.