Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 39, September 14th, 2018

Women may hold up half the sky, as per the Chinese proverb, and they account for half of all tech users, but they remain severely underrepresented in the worlds of technology and entrepreneurship. This is unsustainable and unacceptable. It harms technological development, holding back societal and economic progress. [1]

Photo: Pixabay

The education pipeline isn’t fixing the problem

It is hardly news that women—particularly women of color—are chronically underrepresented in the tech sector. Perhaps more alarming is that the trend is headed in the wrong direction. The percentage of computing roles women hold has largely declined over the past 25 years. [2]

Gender disparity in technology jobs is wide and deep. It exists at U.S., European and Asian companies; it’s seen at the rank-and-file, executive and board levels; and it extends to salaries as well as slots. Female tech entrepreneurs also get far less venture capital than startups led by men. Larry Summers, as president of Harvard University, suggested in 2005 that innate differences between boys and girls might explain the lack of female scientists and mathematicians. He later apologized, but the incident exposed a grim reality: The education pipeline isn’t fixing the problem. Even though high-school girls outperform boys in math and science, boys are more likely to take the standardized tests that lead to a college major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. One study showed college-age women tended to steer clear of those majors because, unlike young men, they think they must be brilliant and not just hard working to succeed. Women also leave high-tech jobs at twice the rate of men, putting a spotlight on the culture of tech workplaces. [3]

Should More Woman Work in the Technology Sector?

A lack of gender diversity carries with it a major opportunity cost, both for individual tech companies and the entire sector. Diverse teams, including those with greater gender diversity, are on average more creative, innovative, and, ultimately, are associated with greater profitability. This strong positive correlation between higher levels of employee diversity and stronger financial performance has been demonstrated consistently across sectors and geographies, and tech is no different. Plus, tech companies’ recent public struggles on gender-related issues have demonstrated there are real, immediate costs that result from a lack of inclusion and diversity—lost stock value, lower market share, HR costs, and public relations costs, among others.[2]

Technology is no longer a male domain,” says Monica Eaton-Cardone, CIO and co-founder of the Chargeback Company. “As advances in technology require new thinking that only different backgrounds and experiences can offer, we need to escape these age-old stereotypes.” Few would argue with those sentiments. Digital technology, in particular, is now so deeply embedded in all our lives that from a consumer perspective, there really is no gender divide – men and women are equally enthusiastic users of the services and functionality delivered by smartphones, tablets, smartphones and the rest. In theory, then, a digital tech industry that is addressing a huge female audience – let’s assume 50% total – with its products and services should also be employing a similar percentage of women.[4]

Early speech recognition software struggled to recognize women’s voices. In 2014, Apple released a health app that could keep track of a wide-ranging set of health metrics – including blood-alcohol content – but which initially failed to account for menstruation. Despite being equal users of technology, women do not participate equally in its development. The tech industry is male-centric, and it is easy to see why.[1]

Photo: Pixabay

We Can See the Trend at the Education Institutions

The lack of diversity in the tech sector is not a recent phenomenon; it has been a significant and consistent challenge for tech companies for many years. From tech start-ups to Fortune 500 industry anchors, tech companies of all sizes recognize that their workforce continues to draw mainly from a small segment of the talent pool—predominantly white and Asian men from elite educational institutions. Drawing from a narrow talent pool leaves money, innovative ideas, and star employees on the table—and potentially exposes organizations to criticism and reputational risk.

In the UK more than a third of young men (36%) aspire to work in the tech sector compared with just 13% of women. [4]. Only 5% of leadership positions in the world in the technology industry are held by women. [1]

Over a quarter of women students say that they have been put off a career in technology because they view it as too male-dominated. We urgently need talented women role models in tech to challenge this perception. Initiatives that show how technology as a force for good will also help. Fifty percent of women say that feeling like the work they do makes the world a better place is the most important factor when deciding their future careers.[1]

The Picture of Today

Despite the growing number of voices pushing for gender equality across the United States, and many tech companies stating that diversity is a priority, we are not yet seeing concrete gains in the tech industry. If tech companies can successfully create pathways for women and girls—particularly the most marginalized women and girls of color, who face the greatest number of barriers—to pursue careers in technology, the industry will benefit from a much broader talent pool and realize new economic opportunities. [2]

Women comprise just [5]:

  • 11% of chief information officer roles in tech companies
  • 11% of senior leadership roles in tech companies
  • 19% of bachelor’s degree recipients for computer and information sciences
  • 23% of high school Advanced Placement Computer Science exam takers
  • 26% of jobs in the computing workforce

We can look at the biggest technology companies to get at a picture of the situation. The male dominance becomes very visible when we count the numbers in the different companies.

Source: www.nextgeneration.ie

 

You will find more data and figures in this brief video:

 

What can we do?

Best practices to increase tech gender diversity through philanthropic and CSR investments

A research carried out by McKinsey [5] discuss several possibilities. The research distills evidence from across the field to identify the approaches showing the most promising results in increasing the number of women studying computing and entering tech. A few critical best practices emerged from this research. Tech companies can draw on them in the design of their own programs and when engaging with organizations they fund or partner with.

Photo: Spencer Selover

  1. Focus on women and girls

As part of a broader diversity effort, it is important for companies to support either girls-only programs or coeducational programs that focus on achieving at least 40 percent representation of girls through proactive recruitment and retention steps. Maintaining a focus on women’s equal representation, with stated goals at the program level, is the only way to avoid replicating the same gender ratios we see in tech today.

  1. Solve for those facing the most barriers—underrepresented women and girls of color

Women experience different types of roadblocks and biases when studying computing and pursuing a career in tech due to their race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and other elements of their identities and backgrounds. Companies can support strategies and programs that attend to the specific challenges faced by the subsegments of women who are facing multiple forms of marginalization. Focusing on the experiences of those who face the greatest number of barriers will spur solutions that ultimately improve the inclusivity of the tech sector for all underrepresented groups.

  1. It is never too late; consider multiple on-ramps

Girls and women can begin their journey into tech at many different points in their lives. According to our research, because girls are less likely than boys to have exposure to computing as children, later on-ramps—such as those during higher education—offer high-impact opportunities to make up lost ground by involving women and girls who have minimal previous exposure.

  1. Deliver eight critical building blocks for success

The evidence base points to eight components that programs need to incorporate to empower women and girls to succeed in tech. Tech companies should work with their partners to ensure these success factors are in place to maximize the impact of their investments:

  1. Offer on-ramps for beginners.
  2. Create a sense of belonging.
  3. Build her confidence in her abilities.
  4. Cultivate a community of supportive peers.
  5. Ensure adult gatekeepers (family, teachers, counselors) are encouraging and inclusive.
  6. Foster interest in computing careers.
  7. Create continuity between computing experiences.
  8. Provide access to technology and computing experiences.

Photo: Christina Morillo

  1. Connect programs to each other

Most programs only target one particular stage in the tech journey. However, if the experience of women and girls in tech are one-off, they are less likely to remain engaged in computing. Companies can encourage the programs they support to connect with one another and transition young women smoothly from one experience to the next—and invest to fill any gaps in program offerings. Developing this “connective tissue” increases the likelihood that the experiences in which a company invests will ultimately lead women to enter the sector.

  1. Measure impact

Companies can drive knowledge development by funding organizations and grantees to collect data against a consistent set of metrics. This report contains a dashboard that captures the relevant metrics for companies to apply across their CSR and philanthropic programs related to women in tech; the intention is to help the field coalesce around a manageable set of indicators that will enable us to understand what works.

How to Give Women More Space?

Together, tech companies have the opportunity to dramatically shift the trajectory of women and girls entering the industry and make tech an exciting career opportunity for all. Getting this right will result in women participating in the tech workforce in equal numbers as men. Achieving greater equality is a business imperative for the sector—and the benefits will spread far beyond it.

Women are under-represented in the tech sector. Not only that, but they’re underpaid, often passed for promotions and faced with everyday sexism. It’s no wonder women are more likely to leave the industry within a year compared to their male counterparts. This all has real-world consequences for the future of society and technology. How can devices and programs be built for everyone, if not everyone is involved in its production? Women make up half the world, so it’s only logical they make up half the workforce. It’s time we focus on the next generation of tech talent and make sure gender equality exists for the good of everyone. This means more flexible working arrangements, more women in leadership roles and more encouragement at an early age for girls and boys to pursue whatever they are naturally interested in.

Photo: Bruce Mars

 

 

References

[1] Sheridan Ash, David Gann, Mark Dodgson: The tech industry needs more women. Here’s how to make it happen. World Economic Forum 09 Nov 2017

[2] .WHY AREN’T THERE MORE WOMEN IN TECH?  Next Generation Sep 3, 2018

[3] Women and Tech.  Blomberg, 8. August 2017

[4] Trevor Clawson: Escaping The Stereotypes – Women Are Underrepresented In Tech But There Are Solutions Forbes Mar 14, 2018

[5] REBOOTRE PRESENTATION, PIVOTAL VENTURES, AND MCKINSE Y & COMPANY (201 8)

 

 

 

 

Do you have a comment or do you want to give your feedback on this article? Do you want to write letters to the editor? Please use the link https://lucu.nkb.no/feedback/


The photo on top: Bruce Mars

 

Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 39, September 14th, 2018

Category: 

Advertisements
, , , , , , , ,
Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

The Lucubrate Magazine highlights education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.

You may also like
Latest Posts from Lucubrate Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.