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Houston named 4th best metro for women in tech by a new study

Houston has been deemed the fourth best city for women in technology, according to a SmartAsset report. Christina Morillo/Pexels

If you're a woman in the technology industry here in Houston, you're in the right place. Houston was recognized as the 4th best city in the United States for women in technology jobs, according to a report from SmartAsset.

The study took into consideration four key factors; gender pay gap, income after housing, and percentage of tech jobs filled by women were all double weighted, while four-year employment growth was factored in. Using data from the U.S. Census, SmartAsset only looked at cities with populations of 200,000 residents or more that had reliable data, which left the study with 58 cities across the country.

Houston's tech pay is what stood out for the city. The average female tech worker in the Bayou City has $60,600 left from her salary after paying for a home, and Houston ranks eighth overall in this metric. With a ratio of 99 percent, Houston's wage gap when it comes to tech jobs ranked the city No. 3 for smallest wage gap. However, at 26 percent, Houston has a somewhat low percentage of women in tech positions.

No other Texas cities appeared on the list, though it's unclear if they were among the 58 cities evaluated as a part of the study. Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia ranked ahead of Houston. California's major tech players — such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — all ranked in the middle of the pack or worse.

The studied compared the cities against the national average. The full list of the top 15 cities, seen below, all ranked higher than the national average, based on the study's index.

This isn't the first time this year that Texas has been recognized as a good place for women in business. In January, a study found that the Lone Star State was No. 1 for female entrepreneurs. However, when it comes to STEM jobs, another report found Houston to be less desirable of a metro. But, as the SmartAsset study found, affordability is important, and Houston was deemed one of the most affordable cities to live in this year.

Via SmartAsset

Today starts classes in San Jacinto College's new center. Photo via sanjac.edu

San Jacinto College is gearing up to open the Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology at its main campus in Pasadena — a $60 million project designed to bolster the Houston area's petrochemical workforce.

On August 21, the community college hosted media tours of the Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology (CPET). The center will welcome more than 2,800 students August 26 and host a grand opening September 18. The college broke ground on the 151,000-square-foot center in September 2017.

At CPET, future and current petrochemical workers will learn about process operations, troubleshooting, nondestructive testing, instrumentation, and myriad other aspects of the industry. In all, CPET will offer 75 courses. The center's highlights include an 8,000-square-foot glycol distillation unit, 35 labs, and 19 classrooms. San Jacinto College bills the center as the largest petrochemical training site in the Gulf Coast region.

"Four years ago, a team came together from San Jacinto College and the East Harris County Manufacturers Association to put together a long-term plan for workforce development," says Jim Griffin, associate vice chancellor at San Jacinto College and senior vice president of petrochemical, energy, and technology. "The Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology was part of that plan and is now a reality."

Griffin says the curriculum, classrooms, and labs were "designed and influenced" by the petrochemical industry.

Among CPET's more than 20 partners are:

  • Emerson, which donated more than $1.3 million worth of services and equipment.
  • INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA, which contributed $250,000 in cash.
  • Dow Chemical, which donated $250,000 in cash.

All three of those employers — and many others in the region — depend on schools like San Jacinto College to contribute to the pool of highly trained workers in the petrochemical sector.

"We expect to see a higher-than-normal level of retirements over the next five plus years; rebuilding our workforce is critical at this time," Jeff Garry, Dow Chemical's operations director in the Houston area, said when his company's CPET donation was announced. "The need to train and adequately staff our assets will continue to be a pressing concern. As the labor market becomes more competitive for talent, we understand the importance to attract and retain highly skilled and educated workers."

With four campuses in Harris County, San Jacinto College promotes itself as a training hub for the country's largest petrochemical manufacturing complex, featuring 130 plants and employing about 100,000 people. CPET will serve as the centerpiece of that hub. Overall, the community college says it "plays a vital role in helping the region maintain its status as the 'Energy Capital of the World.'"

PetrochemWorks.com — a petrochemical career initiative whose backers include JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and the East Harris County Manufacturing Association — says the local petrochemical industry will need 19,000 more skilled workers annually over the next three to five years.

"Chronic shortages of skilled labor are increasing costs and schedules and resulting in declining productivity, lower quality, more accidents, and missed objectives," according to Petrochemical Update, a news website.

Although robots are on the rise in many industries, Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who's an energy and technology expert, believes that as petrochemical companies increasingly turn to automation, productivity will go up, ultimately creating more jobs — not fewer.

"In large part," Mills writes, "it's desperation, not an infatuation with tech or cost savings, that drives employers to deploy technologies that amplify the capabilities of the employees they have and can find. It is a common misconception to think that automation is always cheaper than using labor."