In this global world, where technology is disrupting the way we live, work and play, it really seems quite ironic to see a huge gap in gender parity especially in the world of tech. The ratio of women within engineering, computer science, and technology domain is dismally poor. And this has a ripple effect on the growth and development of industries across all sectors. As per the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report of 2017, there’s an increasing gender gap in the field of education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment that may take many more years to bridge.
Rachel Tipograph, Founder, and CEO of MikMak. TV says “When you enter tech, you realize that there are more men than women. Whether you’re looking at startup founders, investors or people in computing and technical roles, women often find themselves in rooms full of men. Even the research data gives us a dismal picture on the status of women in tech space."
Some of the Statistics on Women in Tech are given below:
- Only about a quarter of computing jobs are held by women.
- Women are seen quitting their tech roles at a much higher rate than men.
- As per a research done by Belong, ‘for every 100 testing jobs, there were 34 women compared to 66 men. When it came to hardcore programming roles, the ratio changed to 25: 75.’
Let us try to find out some probable and real reasons behind such state of affairs:
- The science of human nature – Institutional biases at workplace
Many subtle forms of institutional biases play a major role in pushing women out of tech fields. The ugly truth on gender stereotype is even evident in the best of companies. The most recent issue of James Damore from Google who claimed in his memo “that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
This diversity issue coming from a guy who studied at Harvard, Princeton, and MIT and worked at the search engine’s Mountain View HQ in California hit headlines and caused outrage in the industry. And he was sacked for suggesting that women are less suited to certain roles in tech and leadership. But the essence still lies in the rising stereotypes that are ingrained to the core in many organizations till today.
- Career trajectory Vs the biological clock
The results of a research conducted by Belong stated that if 29% women start working in a given year, the percentage drops to a dismal 7% after 12 years. The biggest drop in numbers is after completing five years and the obvious reason for this can be attributed to the juggle between the career clock and the biological clock. Post 5 years’ time is the period in which women often take a break to start a family in their lives, and many of them are unable to return back to work.
There’s another challenge associated and rooted into this on up-skilling which is a prerequisite for a successful career in tech sector. As women still tend to take a lion’s share of household responsibilities, hence they often struggle to engage themselves in trainings outside office hours. In technology, one cannot afford to miss this critical part which is must for survival.
- Education and Early development issues
The faulty early development mechanism of females in society is another reason of ‘pinkification’ of girls. Clothes, toys and even which domains to choose are all propagated from the very beginning. Virginija Langbakk - Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) states that “Deep-rooted stereotypes are one of the main obstacles for women’s careers in the ICT (Information and Communication technology) sector. At an early age, girls learn to consider boys better at learning digital skills. Later in life, they look for career options elsewhere and overlook the benefits of having a job in tech.
Dissecting this issue further, the data suggest that at high school, girls achieve better grades than boys. However, at the university level in tech field, they find themselves being outnumbered by males- 82% versus 18%. Such an imbalance accounts for the falling trend of females taking up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) courses and keeps reinforcing the assumption that STEM jobs attract less women.
The Belong Research looked at some sample set of women graduating from Tier 1 universities and found that nearly 50% women engineers quit tech and then they move to fields like marketing and consulting. Often women themselves don’t understand what options are available in tech fields, and that stops them to move ahead.
Wrapping up - Words of Wisdom
There are proven studies which state that female representation in every level, especially at the top management improves the financial performance of organizations. Fetching more female technology experts reduces the menace of monoculture. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
However, in spite of so many tumultuous years of under-representation of women in the technology industry; there seems some respite in recent years. Role models like Parisa Tabriz, Arielle Zuckerberg, and many other new generation women tech leaders are challenging the status quo and are forcing the industry to think on the losses it may incur if gender disparity is not dealt wisely in technology space. Though women starting tech companies are not high in number, and the percentage compared to men might still be relatively low, however, it's happening more than it was about 10 years ago; and that’s a significant change to begin with.