The debate about gender diversity in tech has raged for years. Numbers show that women are still underpaid, underrepresented, and even discriminated against in the tech sector. Though the percentage of women in the US labor force has slowly increased to about 47% over the past years, it still remains significantly low in the tech industry.
Statistics reveal that the five largest tech companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon) only have a workforce of around 34.4% women. Women are highly underrepresented in computer-science-related occupations (25% of the total workforce) and software engineering (14% of the total workforce). In fact, the number of women in software engineering jobs has only increased by 2% in the last 21 years.
Why are there few women in technology?
There are several reasons for the low number of women in technology:
- Lack of role models: With three-quarters of the workforce in Silicon Valley being male, many women are discouraged from pursuing jobs in tech
- Lack of a talent pool: Opportunities in tech start with education. Research has shown that few women are taking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses in college. As a result, employers have fewer women to select from when hiring.
- Unfavorable workplace culture: Since most tech workplaces are male-dominated, many women have reported experiencing gender discrimination at work. Others have suffered sexual harassment. This has led to a high turnover of women from STEM-related jobs.
How to promote gender diversity in tech
How can the tech industry improve in terms of promoting gender balance in the workplace?
- Hire based on potential: Most employers hire solely on prior experience and current competencies. As a result, many women are overlooked for entry-level positions. Tech companies should hire based on qualities like drive, passion, curiosity, and insight.
- Increase flexible working options: Having more flexible working arrangements will help mothers balance their careers with childcare.
- Take hiring managers through unconscious bias training: Such training programs will expose people to their biases and offer the necessary tools to counter those behaviors.
Research has shown that companies with high gender diversity tend to generate more revenue. Therefore, the importance of women in tech cannot be overemphasized.
‘No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity’ – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.