One google search on ‘famous women in technology, and numerous lists of women who have contributed to the tech world get stacked up. Many of us must have looked through these lists at some point but a few would’ve noticed one thing. I looked at a list of “The 10 most influential women in tech right now”. Here are some quotes from women on this list.
“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” – Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.
“Tech is an incredible force that will change our world in ways we can’t anticipate. If that force is only 20 to 30% women, that is a problem.” – Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
“I didn’t want my daughter to feel culturally isolated in the pursuit of her studies as I had as a young girl. I didn’t want her to give up on her passions just because she didn’t see anyone else like her in the classroom.” – Kimberly Bryant, founder, and CEO of Black Girls Code
Each of these women has had points in their lives when they have been told to take a foot back for being a woman. One might see all these women doing well in tech, or how companies are advertising the diversity in their workforces and think that we’re progressing towards a world without any gender bias but if you look closer, you’ll realize what the hard truth is.
The hard truth
Let’s start the discussion with some statistics.
- Women comprise 14% of the total workforce in software engineering and 25% of that in computer science-related jobs
- 48% of women in STEM jobs report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process.
- 43% of Americans believe women create a safer, more respectful work environment than men. Only 5% of Americans believe men create a safer workspace.
If these figures did not stir you away from believing we are progressing towards a better world, here’s one more fact – women software engineer hires have only increased by two over the last 21 years. This trend shows that women are severely underrepresented in this industry.
These facts are often justified as a “pipeline problem” in saying that not enough women are skilled enough to be employed in the tech industry. But let me put across yet another number. A report by Girls Who Code states that about 74 percent of young girls express interest in STEM fields and computer science. But when it comes to making a decision about where to start their careers, something happens.
Now the question is – what is this “something”?
Now that we know that the gender gap in the technology industry is more than just a pipeline problem, let us evaluate some of the other reasons that factor into such poor statistics when it comes to women in technology.
- “Step back”: At the beginning of this article, we talked about how every woman who has been successful in the industry has narrated at least one incident when she was told to step back for being a woman. Often, this phrase is said more assertively or even forcefully. Countless women, especially in a country like India, choose to give in to this phrase.
- Lack of opportunities: Yes, we’re living in the 21st century. Yes, we send both our sons and daughters to school. Yes, we support our children irrespective of their sexuality. If you believe this, you are one of the privileged. But believe me, there are the ones not as privileged as you. Nearly 40% of girls in India aged 15-18 years are not getting an education.
- The notion of the workplace: The work culture of an office in the technology industry is something that is regarded as not suitable for a woman. Creating a safe place to work for women has never been a reputation that the tech industry has created for itself.
- Lack of diversity in the top-tier colleges: Top tech companies are known for hiring individuals only from the top-tier colleges. These colleges are not diverse and the above practice leads to fewer people from the marginalized sections of society getting into the tech industry.
The road ahead
By now, we have understood that the current scenario is not an ideal one. Even though it will be difficult, this state makes it even more important for each one of us to take a step towards reducing the gender bias for women in technology. Here are some of the many things that need to be done if we want a more inclusive world where women in technology feel safe and at par with their male counterparts.
- Support early: It is important that we start showing our support to young girls from high school only. Many organizations like Girls Who Code, are doing this and making young girls confident in the fact that they are capable and assisted to enter STEM as women in technology.
- Involve men in the conversation: The affair of reducing the gender gap in the workplace is not achievable without the involvement of men. Men must be made to see the facts and figures and understand the importance of taking a step towards the cause.
- Involvement of the industry: Tech companies need to look beyond advertising the apparent diversity of their workforces and consciously work towards the following:
- Improving the recruiting process so as to provide opportunities to all sections of society.
- Take steps towards creating a workplace as comfortable and opportune for women as it is for the majority (males).
- Voicing ourselves: We are not voiceless, it’s just that people don’t listen. It is necessary that we as women don’t fall into “step back” ever. We’ve got to raise our voices, bring forth our arguments and stick together to progress towards a world where articles like this one seem like a thing of the past.
Frequently Asked Questions
Women comprise 14% of the total workforce in software engineering and 25% of that in computer science-related jobs. Only 34% of STEM graduates are women.
Women comprise 14% of the total workforce in software engineering.
The ratio of men to women in technology is a whopping 4:1.
Only 13% of engineers are female.
The statistics of women in technology do not show this world to be what it should be. As UN Chief Antonio Guterres once said “ [Gender inequality] should shame us all in the 21st century because it is not only unacceptable, it is stupid”.
The underrepresentation of women in technology is not only an issue of women. It is hampering the growth of the world as a whole and must be addressed for technology to take the leaps and bounds it is set to take. Without the involvement of women, the industry is set to take the graph down.
For bringing change, it has to be tackled right from the root level. Right from the households where children need to be made aware of the situation and given the resources to change the scenario. It is a change in our minds that can only lead to change in the world.
By Khushi Sharma