Bloomberg reports that just 30% of the workforce at the largest Silicon Valley tech companies are women. In another study, only 12% of engineers at the companies surveyed (including Airbnb, GitHub and Flickr) are women. I work for a smaller tech company, where I am the only female of eight developers. Why aren't more women entering into tech careers?
I’ll give you three reasons:
- Women are still not considered equals in the workplace.
- Women have personality differences that make it harder to thrive in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.
- Women are not encouraged into STEM fields during their formative years.
While I have never personally experienced gender inequality at my workplace, there are women who have elsewhere. There are dozens of articles on women who have experienced online harassment from trolls, a bad workplace situation or an objectifying comment at a conference, just to name a few.
Women are from Venus
As much as we try to downplay the differences between men and women, they do exist. Evidence shows men tend to overstate their strengths and abilities, while women are just the opposite. This can make the interview process difficult for women vying for jobs against men. It’s not about competition for women. We just want to be part of a team.
“In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.” – The Atlantic
Computer science is for the nerds
It starts young. In high school, computer science is optional, and it’s for the nerdy boys. We’ve created this image and perception of programmers that women are not exactly flocking to. As much as I like Star Trek, not every woman will be as mildly into sci-fi as me! Is your workplace inviting to women? Or are your cubicles filled with brogrammers?
But thanks to programs like Bitcamp, this image is beginning to change. Exposing girls to coding early can make a difference in the future STEM workforce. I recently had an opportunity to help out at one of these workshops, where 20 middle-school girls gave up their Saturdays to learn how to create a basic website. The demand for this type of learning is so high that there is a waiting list for the workshop, and organizers are considering offering more advanced classes.
So, what can we do?
First of all, if you’re a guy, don’t be a jerk. Women can code just as well as men. Second, both men and women have to recognize we have barriers we must overcome when it comes to communicating with each other. Be aware of your differences, and don’t scare women off! Finally, buy your daughter Legos (not just Barbie dolls) and expose her to code early on. This will give her an opportunity to develop an interest in engineering. It might not be proportionate right now, but we’re going to need both men and women to have lasting, profitable tech companies.