Women in Tech: A Systemic Bias

For decades, women interested in working in the tech industry have had to overcome sexism and discrimination in the male-dominated field.

Historically, women have a harder time generating visibility in the tech industry than their male counterparts, composing only 24% of computing jobs – which could shrink to just 22% in the next decade, according to research from the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code. Simply put, women are not proportionally represented in the tech sector. When half of the population makes up less than a quarter of all workers in a field, it’s clear that a problem exists and must be addressed. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t just live among career seeking individuals, but also among female students aspiring to develop careers in the tech field.

Educational Roots

The systemic problem of gender discrimination in tech is evident even at colleges, where many women studying in fields like computer science report sexism before even entering the workforce. A USA Today article interviewed women studying tech at a collegiate level and found that many of those women felt they were the victims of sexism in their classes, being assigned “less desirable projects than men in the same classes.” Another student interviewed stated that she was the victim of “micro-aggressions from our classmates, we know when we go into the workplace it will transcend to more than just that.” This student is unfortunately correct, as data and anecdotal evidence suggest an overwhelming amount of sexism and harassment creating barriers for women interested in pursuing careers in the tech industry.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination of Women in Tech

Far too many tech companies create a hostile, unwelcoming environment for women seeking employment in the industry. A CNN article published this year cited a survey of women working in Silicon Valley which revealed that as many as three in five women working in the area have received unwanted sexual advancements from men. It’s a vicious cycle – women are the victims of sexism and discrimination by men working in the industry, which in turn creates a sexist culture which discourages more women from entering the field.

Software developer and entrepreneur Bethanye Blount’s struggles in the male-dominated tech industry were chronicled in an article by The Atlantic, where she voiced her frustrations about being taken seriously and coping with sexual harassment from men in the field. Throughout her career Blount has had to deal with unwanted sexual advances by men in Silicon Valley and being ignored by investors who instead defer their questions to her male partner. Her story is just one example of how far too many men working in tech perceive women, stating that she is “angry that things are no better for a 22-year-old beginning her career than they were for me 25 years ago when I was starting out.”

Melinda Gates voiced similar concerns, wondering how women could work in an industry that has continued to push them away. When she graduated with her computer science degree in 1984, women composed 34% of computer science majors, but in 2014 that number had fallen to 18%. Melinda Gates, along with others, have voiced concerns about the lack of venture capital funding given to women-led startups. As it currently stands only 3% of startups that receive venture capital funding are run by women. It is abundantly clear that a systemic bias exists in tech, so what can be done to counteract it and create an inclusive environment?

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

It is not too late to create the change that women in the tech industry deserve. Companies like ours aim to create a work environment that curbs sexism and sexual harassment in favor of creating an inclusive work environment that treats everyone equally, regardless of gender. At ConnXus, over half of our employees are women who work diligently alongside their male counterparts towards our shared goals. Collaboration built on mutual respect is crucial to sustaining the inclusive culture that we have cultivated, and we hope to see this replicated across our industry. To break the glass ceiling, the tech world must continue this dialogue and push companies to create an environment that empowers women to become leaders in the field. The tech industry’s toxic culture can only change if everyone has these problems in mind and strive to create an equitable work culture where women feel safe and supported.


Sources

  1. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/cracking-the-gender-code?src=JB-11540
  2. http://college.usatoday.com/2017/08/01/college-women-in-tech-were-encountering-sexism-already/
  3. http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/22/technology/sexism-tech-pipeline/index.html
  4. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/why-is-silicon-valley-so-awful-to-women/517788/
  5. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/melinda-gates-tech/519762/