It’s probably the most epic scene in Jurassic Park. While a T-Rex terrorizes and raptors run rampant, Lex reboots the computer system and, basically, saves everyone’s lives. Without her mad hacking skills, everyone in the movie would have been dino-chow. But the trust-the-girl-with-all-the-knowledge scenario is uncommon, both in big-budget Hollywood films and in the tech sector.
For decades, the STEM fields have been unwelcoming to women, unfairly (albeit sometimes unconsciously) omitting their seat at the tech table with glaring wage gaps, gender discrimination and biases, sexual harassment, and limited opportunities.
So what’s to be done?
In our inaugural State of Women in Tech address, we’re discussing what the tech landscape looks like now (and why), ways this web hosting company is minding the gender gap, and a host — see what we did there? — of ways your company can turn the tides in tech. Tune in.
The State of Affairs
It’s true — things have come a long way for women in the last century. We can vote, join the army, and hold public office — among other things. The reality isn’t, however, all sunshine and roses. There really is a long way to go before gender equality really happens. For instance, before 1974, women couldn’t even have a credit card in their own name. Seriously.
Women in the Workplace: Historical Background
Even since the early days of computing, the spotlight hasn’t shone on women’s contributions, despite the fact that women were the brains behind some major operations.
Take the first computer, for example. Research shows that six women programmed the first electronic computer — the pioneering Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) — during WWII but weren’t given credit for their work, even identified in photos as “refrigerator ladies,” models used to make products appear more alluring. Their groundbreaking work went unrecognized and unlauded for years.
What’s more, it has taken years for women to earn equalizing legal rights to protect them in the workplace. Here’s a sample:
- According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, employers cannot legally fire or pass on (for jobs or promotions) otherwise qualified female applications because they are or might become pregnant. Previous to the enactment of this law, women were often let go to spare employers the costs of health care and maternity leave.
- Sexual harassment is a huge part of the national conversation today. It wasn’t always this way, however. In 1991, Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of workplace harassment, a pre-#MeToo spotlight on sexual harassment that was, in many ways, the first of its kind.
- In the 1986 Supreme Court case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, it was determined that the making of repeated sexual references or advances in the workplace amount to a hostile work environment.
- In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, legislation that allows employees to file a complaint of pay discrimination within six months of receiving their last paycheck. The act also confirmed that discrimination occurs every time a woman is paid less for equal work.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of 1968 determined that it was unlawful to continue separating job listings and help wanted ads by sex.
Education for Women
Some good news: women are truly doing better than ever, at least where education is concerned. According to a recently-released report, women are more likely than men to be enrolled in college, at a rate of nearly 72 percent. And women are more likely to earn those diplomas with college completion rates reaching 58 percent in 2017.
These on-the-rise figures don’t extend to many tech fields, however.
Some numbers seem to be spiraling backward. Women make up only 20 percent of engineering graduates and an even smaller number — 11 percent — of practicing engineers are women. Plus, in the mid-1980s, 37 percent of computer science majors were women.
Now? It’s dipped to 18 percent.
In addition, a Google survey reported that most girls don’t know what computer science actually means. They aren’t encouraged to study it and allocate words like “boring” and “difficult” to its meaning. This retrograde has a significant (and alarming) impact on future generations of young women in tech.
Gender Makeup in Tech
Step inside any office, and it’s easy to see that most aren’t staffed to be gender equal. Want some more dismal data on the disparity?
- Only 25 percent of computing jobs are held by women. This is a number that has been on a steady decline for years.
- The turnover rate is more than twice as high for women than it is for men in tech industry jobs — 41 percent versus 17 percent. Fifty-six percent of women in tech are leaving their employers mid-career. Of the women who leave, 24 percent off-ramp and take a non-technical job in a different company; 22 percent become self-employed in a tech field, 20 percent take time out of the workforce, and 10 percent go to work with a startup company.
- From 1980 to 2010, 88 percent of all information technology patents were by male-only invention teams, while 2 percent were by female-only invention teams. So essentially, the technology being created for a widely varying and diverse population is formed by a generally homogeneous group. Not ideal.
- 12 percent of engineers at Silicon Valley startups are women. Only 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies are held by women.
Women are being passed over at the top too. Only 5 percent of leadership positions in the tech sector are held by women; they make up only 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capital firms. And their growth is delayed: More than 30 percent of women over the age of 35 are still in junior positions. In fact, women are far more likely to be in junior positions than men — regardless of age.
Perceptions of Women in the Workplace
It’s not just the lower numbers of women in tech that poses a problem. Another issue? How they’re perceived.
For example, merely knowing the gender of a programmer largely affects perceptions of work quality and success. This kind of bias is very pervasive. Get this: in a study of GitHub users, code written by women was accepted 78.6 percent of the time — 4 percent more than code written by men. This trend, however, only worked when the coder’s gender was kept secret. So women were better coders — when their gender was left unknown.
(Sad fact: Even lauded author J.K. Rowling chose to use an initialed version of her name because of perceived gender biases in her industry).
And that’s barely a start.
While everyone is subject to failings and mistakes in the workplace, when women in high places fail in the public eye, it’s viewed as a harder fall — a reason why women shouldn’t lead — with more intense media scrutiny and criticism. Yep, it’s been proven. There’s a nice double standard for you.
Women of Color in Tech
For other marginalized groups, problems only seem to amplify, especially with both gender and race discrimination concerns intensifying underrepresentation. Perhaps more than gender, race is a huge concern for women in tech.
In 2013, women of black, Hispanic, and Native American descent made up 18 percent of the college-aged population, yet they only earned 6 percent of computing degrees and 3 percent of engineering degrees.
Even with many companies pouring money into diversity initiatives, something is faulty: the workforce remains largely homogeneous and severely lacking in women of color. But diversity in tech is crucial: not only are truly-diverse companies more likely to report growth, but they perform better, and have higher levels of employee satisfaction and an increased competitive edge.
Companies are often tight-lipped about the breakdown of intersectional ethnicities represented in their female employees — only in 2016 did one company step up. Now, numbers show Pinterest sitting at the top of companies for percent of underrepresented minority groups at management and executive levels in tech. Yet, that winning-number is only at 8 percent.
The ‘Women in Tech’ label represents an incredibly diverse group, and this is going unseen by the tech industry at large.
(Don’t be discouraged; these women of color in tech will inspire you to help fight for change.)
Queer Women in Tech
Watch the roadblocks continue: LGBTQ women in the technology industry are craving a voice that, more often than not, goes unheard. An estimated 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQ, and in thriving tech-centric cities, these populations are greater than the national average. So it’s clear that this group deserves far greater representation in tech.
Only two years ago (yes, 2016) did Facebook release diversity stats that included LGBTQ data — of its workforce, 7 percent of workers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or asexual. Even with many companies earning Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s rainbow seal of approval (meaning, they have LGBTQ inclusion policies), few numbers in this group are reaching top levels of these companies. Policies do not a diverse environment make. There’s still a looong way to go before equalizing truly happens.
LGBTQ women have reported discriminating workplace environments in the tech industry and often struggle to overcome deep-set stereotypes and eliminate haunting “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentalities.
Truly, these omissions hold everyone back. Let’s make tech a hallmark for diversity, shall we? Not only for women in general but for all marginalized groups. You can start by checking out these seven LGBTQ tech groups.
Revealing the Wage Gap
We haven’t even gotten started on $$$. Brace yourself: the numbers are startling.
In Silicon Valley, the median male makes 61 percent more than the median female. It’s been reported that women who work in computer and mathematical fields earn 80 cents to the dollar that men earn doing the same job. Add that up: it amounts to $317 per weekly paycheck and $16,484 less per year. This type of wage gap results in a significant loss of lifetime earnings for women.
And consider this: 63 percent of the time, women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company. What’s more, women are asking for less: A University of Texas study showed that women ask for $7,000 less than their male counterparts in job interviews. But when they were asked to negotiate on behalf of a friend or colleague, they asked for as much as men.
What’s more, in 2016, women-led companies received $1.46 billion in investments from venture capitalists. Male-led companies, on the other hand, received $58.2 billion. Yes, you read that right: $58.2 billion.
These numbers just don’t make (dollars and) sense. At this rate, it will take until 2133 to close the gender gap globally. We ain’t got time for that! For women — and for the overall success of our businesses and culture — we have to make some ch-ch-ch-changes.
How is This Affecting the Tech Industry?
To some, it may not seem like a big deal. Sure, these numbers are horror-movie-level frightening, and the tech industry is mostly male-populated. So what?
Well for one, this glaring gender gap in tech means our businesses aren’t doing as well as they could be — across all industries.
Check this out: Women-led companies have historically performed three times better than those with male CEOs. This trend is true with startups, too. The venture-backed companies that were acquired most often had a 7 percent share of female execs, as opposed to 3 percent at unsuccessful (unacquired) firms.
Even the most valuable and innovative tech companies out there struggle with these gender-blind issues. Take the search engine behemoth for example: Google only has a 30 percent female workforce — and they don’t bother collecting wage data for the company (too expensive, too burdensome).
Plus, surveys have reported that women are more in-tune with tech. For example, women in western countries use the internet 17 percent more than their male counterparts. They use their mobile phones, social media platforms, and location-based services more; plus, they are lead adopters of new technology and an essential demographic for so many tech industries.
How could this be true and not negatively affect businesses in tech? Answer: it can’t. Clearly, our tech workforce isn’t accurately representing those they serve. These deep and obvious cracks in the system are harming our businesses, our people, and our futures.
And we’re just getting started. Women face harassment and sexism in the workplace, plus, brazen unfriendliness to family planning, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. The atmosphere fostered in such environments is not just harming us now. It’s going to keep adversely affecting a future generation at large: girls who are interested in tech fields, but might be dissuaded from entering them because of biases, harassment, exclusivity, gender inequality, discrimination, and other toxic realities. That means our futures — and the future of our businesses — might be as bleak (or bleaker) as our present if we don’t make some crucial adjustments — and soon.
Houston, we have a (very big) problem.
“Most people don’t have to look far to see the gender gap play out in any number of industries,” says Tracey Welson-Rossman, Chief Marketing Officer of Chariot Solutions and founder of TechGirlz. “Tech is no different. Whether it be workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, or finding out that a male colleague gets paid more for the same work, the tech industry suffers the same shortcomings and challenges that all industries face. By making a concerted effort to increase women in this industry, we will see begin to see a change. That change will accelerate as even more women become empowered through these careers, normalizing the idea of women in tech and earning them increased economic power.”
That said, let’s chat about what we’re doing to turn the tides, and then, what your company can do. There’s a lot of work to be done.
What is DreamHost Doing About It?
At DreamHost, we practice what we program — and more importantly, what we preach. In our efforts to support women in tech, we’ve partnered with a few organizations to spread inclusivity in the field and cheerlead women interested in tech fields.
“Part of my role at DreamHost as the marketing manager for events and sponsorships is to look for ways we can contribute to the communities in our industry that help support initiatives we believe in,” Marissa Hanson, our event and PR lead says. “There are many groups in the Women In Tech (WIT) community that need attention and support, and while I wish I could sponsor all of them, I hand-selected a few that I felt really stand out and fit the DreamHost culture. We want not just to provide monetary support but also find ways we can help empower these women to change the industry.”
One of these big sponsorships is with Girl Develop It, an organization dedicated to empowering women and providing judgment-free opportunities to learn web and software development. We’ve loved working with them in the past, and now we’ve taken our friendship to the next level — this year, DreamHost is the official sponsor for Girl Develop It’s WordPress classes.
“One of our big partnerships this year is with Girl Develop it,” Hanson says. “DreamHost is the sole hosting sponsor for all WordPress classes and is helping them reach more women and provide more classes. We also support PDX WIT in Portland, Ore. and TUNE House in Seattle, Wash. My hope is that every year we can add a new Women in Tech community sponsorship so, over time, we are supporting as many as we can take on.”
DreamHost is also adamant about hiring women and striving for parity in the awards and recognitions we dole out. We strive to encourage women in whatever tech role they fill, a working environment we believe all companies should strive (no, hustle) to implement.
“To be in the tech industry doesn’t mean you need to be a coder or an engineer to contribute,” Hanson says. “There are many roles at tech companies in need of more diversity, from finance to marketing. When we hear the phrase ‘women in tech,’ we automatically think developer, but there are more roles to fill. I also think tech companies need to make themselves more appealing and known for providing a safe and diverse environment. The whole point is to be viewed as equals in the workplace, and that starts with individual companies initiating change.”
What Should Your Company Do About It?
Well, before we dive into your Gender Equality To-Do List, let’s take a look at a few companies who are putting in the work to make the gender gap a thing of the past.
- Remember that scary stat about turnover for women in tech? Double the rate of men? Well, outdoor clothing company Patagonia has a 100 percent return rate. Yes, you read that right. One hundred percent of the women who have had or adopted children at Patagonia over the past five years have returned to work. Most companies are losing new moms — 43 percent of qualified women with children leave or off-ramp for a period of time. So what are they doing right? A lot of things. For one, they value caregiving. Patagonia offers an on-site child care center — which only 4 percent of companies provide — run by qualified (read: often bilingual and childhood-development-trained) teachers, safe places to nurse newborns, ample paid leave, and nannies provided to accompany the parent and child if they need to travel for work. These are huge steps, especially with glaring childcare stats: According to a report, a large percentage of families are spending around 10 to 20 percent of their household income on childcare. And in many places, full-time preschool for a four-year-old was found to be more expensive than in-state public college tuition.
- Big Four firm Deloitte has, for years, earned a spot on “Best Companies to Work For” lists, including its title of a top company by Working Mother Magazine. Clearly, they’re doing something right for women in their workplace. Deloitte offers paid parental leave — the U.S. is the only country out of 41 surveyed that does not protect the right to paid parental leave by law. Plus, only about 16 percent of companies offer it fully-paid. Deloitte is a winner here, even for women without children; 42 percent of the company’s women are earning promotions to the manager level or above. Plus, in 2013, they opened a leadership center to discuss and promote inclusion, which benefits all.
- Netflix boasts unlimited paid parental leave for a year following the birth or adoption of a child. At Google and YouTube, birth mothers get 18 weeks of paid leave, during which their stock shares vest. Families also get $500 in baby bonding bucks — funds that can help with expenses like formula, diapers, or even takeout for bleary-eyed new parents.
- Investment firm KKR provides childcare options to parents traveling for work — like nannies who can accompany parents — to “attract and keep more talented women, who make up 18 percent of the firm’s 510 investment professionals and about 31 percent of its staff.” Moves in the right direction, for sure.
- Intel deserves a pat on the back for furthering the education of girls around the world. The company is a strategic partner of the 10×10 Girl Rising campaign, which spreads awareness about the need for accessible education for young girls. The more opportunities girls are provided to learn, the better our tech landscape looks.
- Not only is Boston Consulting Group (BCG) named the best company for women by women, but they’ve made hiring and promoting women a priority. The accolades only start there; BCG has been named one of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” for 11 straight years. Plus, their Apprenticeship in Action initiative — a response to women’s desire for increased mentorship opportunities in the company — has helped to increase female promotion rates by 22 percent among senior managers. They also use a Women in the World platform to amplify women’s experiences in the workplace. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the company is a Catalyst Award winner this year. In fact, their steps forward are numerous.
- Slack was a pioneer in reporting the breakdown of ethnic minorities in their female workforce, and they’re also leading the way with their LGBTQ data. Their global workforce of LGBTQ population grew from 10 percent to 13 percent in 2015.
These praiseworthy examples aside, the sad reality is that most companies are not doing this well. To redress the balance, businesses desperately need to put strategies in place to counteract conscious (and unconscious) discrimination and gender biases. We’re human: we’re all subject to them. But now, it’s time to start doing something about them — in a big way.
So how can everyone — businesses and the average Joe alike — support, encourage, and lift women in the tech workplace? How can we foster a female-inclusive future?
So glad you asked. Let us count the (many) ways.
1. Amplify Women’s Voices.
Time to get out your megaphone, folks. A huge key in championing women at work is equalizing voices. Whether it’s interrupting, mansplaining, or taking credit for their ideas, women have confirmed that this is a serious problem in the workplace.
In fact, after having to elbow their way into meetings and fighting to be heard, female White House staffers during the Obama administration developed the amplification strategy as a way to lift and bolster one another’s voices. Amplification started out as women supporting women, female staffers acknowledging each others’ contributions, but it led to much more: more women being consulted in discussions, and even numbers of females in the president’s inner circle reaching parity with men. #GirlPower
Amplification techniques, used by all, can help to counteract existing practices, especially in the tech workplace, and aid in improving listening skills. Not sure how to begin amplifying? Start in your meeting rooms. Better yet, in your own cubicle. How? Role-play these sample statements with yourself before bringing it to the boardroom:
- I want to emphasize what _____ said. It really demonstrated how _____.
- I really appreciate your comment, ____. Your idea could really help us ____.
- As ____ said, we can improve in this area by ____.
- ____’s idea of ____ could be the solution to ____.
In tech — as in all other workplaces — we need to amplify aggressively. Listen to women, actively include them in conversations, and give credit where it’s (desperately) due. Your business — and the quality of your work environment will be better for it. And so will your listening skills!
2. Click Follow.
Don’t just use social media to view cute puppy pics or side-eye your cousin’s inflammatory FB post. Put your clicks to good use: follow women on your platforms.
Flood your timeline with female voices and learn from their unique perspectives and experience. At the very least, this will make your media consumption more equalized, which can help you avoid biases and be more well-informed. In addition, it can help you make better business decisions and expand your knowledge. Plus, it will just make the world a better place. Trust us.
Need some ideas? Try following these 10 awesome women in WordPress on Twitter. Another great list: amazing women of color on Twitter to keep up with. We’ve also got some great women featured on our blog: the first female engineer to grace the cover of Wired magazine, a gal who turned her childhood love for her Commodore 64 into a bonafide real-time freelance company, a kick-butt developer who creates apps for social change, an in-tune author committed to making women’s voices heard, and a diversity-conscious Silicon Valley intern who challenged Facebook. You’ll want to check them out.
3. Read Their Literature.
Don’t just lean in. Educate yourself by reading women’s voices — on the published page. Dust off your library card, peruse Amazon’s virtual stacks, or consult your local bookstore for literature that champions women and offers you opportunities to be part of the needed change in tech.
Consider it required reading. (Pssst. We’ve got a great list of must-read books for women in tech to get you started.)
4. Ditch the Damaging Dialogues.
You know that thing you sometimes hear around the water cooler, a convo involving a woman that goes something like: “You’re cute for an engineer!” or “You’re really good at this, for a woman.” Well, guess what? Lots of women hear these things. And they’re T-I-R-E-D of it.
These kinds of seemingly-harmless remarks are anything but benign. They’re not merely worn-out phrases; they’re affronts perpetuating harmful stereotypes and fostering an atmosphere of prejudice. After all, it’s one of the big issues: 39 percent of women say that gender bias in the workplace is the reason they’re underrepresented in technology. It takes practice — and lots of it — to halt these disparaging slights in their tracks, but you need to start now.
Before you speak: stop and think. Another helpful tool? Role-playing. After all, practice makes perfect. You can also do your part to change the stereotype of the (mostly) male face of tech: start by checking out the awesome #IAmAnEngineer campaign.
5. Invest in Their Businesses.
Really want to help turn the tides in tech for women? Put your money where your mouth is: invest in women-owned businesses. Like we covered earlier, female-fronted companies perform well: Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen a 66 percent increase on return of their invested capital, a 42 percent increase on return of sales, a 53 percent return on equity increase.
Still, there are more than 11 million businesses owned by women, and they receive only 6.7 percent of venture capital funding. Even with the same pitch, a study reported, men were consistently chosen over women to receive funding.
If you can’t be an angel investor and support women-led businesses with big bucks, shop their stores. Ever heard of Rent the Runway? What about Minted, Birchbox, Brit + Co, Lynda.com, Glossier, or 23andme? These, and many others, are women-owned companies that began as startups.
Women own only 5 percent of tech startups, so by being choosy about where you spend your dollars, you could be supporting women (even those across the globe) and encouraging more to pitch their problem-solving ideas. (You could also be helping to save the world! NBD.)
Another way you can help? Contribute to their campaigns. DYK? Forty-seven percent of Indiegogo’s campaigns are led by women. (This isn’t surprising as with the lack of venture capital, women often have to look for alternate means to kickstart their projects.) Look for crowdfunding projects that you’re passionate about and loosen the purse strings. Your support will be a virtual No. 1 foam finger for women.
6. Encourage the Younger Generations.
While we certainly want to change the current state of things for women in tech, a big part of our job is forward-facing: to create a positive environment for future women and girls. It’s not just about closing the gender gap — it’s about education, empowerment, and evolution. The opportunity (and responsibility) to drive change for the future lies on our shoulders.
“I would categorize ‘women in tech’ as a work in progress,” says Welson-Rossman. “While there has been much progress made over the last 10 years, like companies understanding that diverse teams are an asset, the total amount of women in the field is growing at a less than ideal pace. This is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s important that we all do our part to accelerate the pace of change. At TechGirlz we see a number of small wins that show we’re headed in the right direction. That change needs to start in the primary and secondary schools to help institutionalize the idea of women in the workplace and in our culture.”
About 74 percent of girls express interest in STEM fields and computer science — but, based on the spine-chilling stats we’ve shared, there are clear reasons they’re dissuaded from pursuing a tech career. This needs to be changed — fast. By next year, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the US, but only 3 percent of female students would consider a career in technology as their first choice.
Encouraging younger generations to get involved in STEM fields needs to start early (way before they set foot on a university campus). This alone is a feat: the majority of schools don’t teach computer programming, even when 54 percent of students liked the subject. Women who try AP Computer Science (this number is growing!) in high school are 10 times more likely to major in it. Providing adequate tech-related education early is crucial to fostering interest and participation in STEM. Early training could make all the difference.
So, a lesson here? Mind the gap. The coding gap, that is. What is the coding gap, anyway? Well, as with most things in tech, there’s a significant gender discrepancy in the percentage of people filling computing professions. It’s as unfair as it sounds — women (and other underrepresented minorities) have to work twice as hard as men for these types of jobs. This is a depressing degeneration because the first true programmer was a woman.
This image problem in programming presents an omission that could continue to haunt us in the future. Coding remains one of the most important job skills used across industries, and therefore, should be presented to youth, especially girls, early on. While there are social and environmental factors that hinder more women and girls from learning about and entering programming positions, we, too, must make it accessible (and appealing) to more women.
Computer science is not just a nice option for students; it’s a crucial skill needed in the 21st century. Knowledge of computer science is foundational.
- Start youngsters early (infancy isn’t too soon) with books, games (especially female-created ones!), and classes (we’ve curated tons of resources for you to browse).
- Get girls to participate in the Hour of Code campaign (in 2013, students wrote more than 500 million lines of code — more than half of those participants were girls. Boo-yah.)
- Introduce them to positive female role models and mentors in technology (like supermodel Karlie Kloss, who advocates for women in tech and created a national coding camp for girls).
- Get involved: whether alone or with your company, sponsor clubs, classes, camps, or other opportunities for girls. Volunteer.
- Learn about leadership and initiative from programs like (our pals) Girl Develop It, TechGirlz, Within, Girls Who Code, #YesWeCode, Black Girls Code, and Women in Technology.
And educators, it may take more than just incorporating computer science and tech into your curriculums. You may have to change the packaging. In 2014, for the first time, more females than males were signed up for an intro computer science course at University of California Berkeley. How? The class name was changed from “Introduction to Symbolic Programming” to “Beauty and the Joy of Computing,” which increased the female enrollment by 50 percent. Clearly, to empower girls, creativity is required.
“The first step is helping [girls] understand that ‘tech’ does not mean coding or software development,” says Welson-Rossman. “The nature of work in America has changed so dramatically over the past decade that nearly every career touches on tech in some way. So being a woman in tech can range from robotics to gaming to mobile to online marketing. If you delve deeper, you realize that tech is fundamentally reshaping even more traditional industries like manufacturing or farming. Of course, coding is still a great career option, but as all women know, one size does not fit all. We need to reframe the conversation of what it means to be a technologist so that more girls can get excited and embrace a career in the field.”
TechGirlz does this by striving to reset common misconceptions about what it means to be a technologist through fun, engaging courses designed specifically for girls. They build interest in a wide range of areas that include coding, game design, cybersecurity, tech in science/medicine, tech in art, and so much more. They help girls create a sense of community with one another and meet women who can serve as role models.
And even when helping the youth to get involved in tech, remember: it’s not too late for you to learn to code. Don’t think it’s out of reach if you’re midcareer. Start with our hefty list of coding resources and jumpstart your programming path.
7. Be a Mentor.
According to a survey, 48 percent of women said the reason they are underrepresented in technology is due to a lack of mentors; 42 percent said the lack of females role models in the field hindered their equal representation in the workplace.
Women miss out on a lot of high-quality mentoring experiences — especially those that open doors for leadership, growth, and promotion. Our cultures and businesses pay the heavy price for these omissions.
If you’re a leader in your workplace, mentor and champion women by offering guidance and teaching. Make it your mission to encourage and empower them. Commit to providing equal access to mentoring opportunities, give actionable advice, help women network and make key connections, and advocate for them in the workplace (e.g. offer their names up for promotions and meaningful assignments, amplify their voices in group settings, provide them equal growth opportunities, etc.)
Fix the faulty pipeline of women reaching leadership roles in the workplace and achieving greater progress by being a mentor.
8. Mark Your Calendars.
Got a pen? You’ll want to make note of these important holidays in your planner:
- December 3-9, 2018: Computer Science Education Week. Participate in the Hour of Code, access advocacy tools, and learn how to bring computer science to local schools.
- March 8, 2019: International Women’s Day. A celebration of all women, this girl-powered holiday is about empowerment and appreciation. Acknowledge the work of women in your workplace and take steps to improve how you interact with, help, and support them.
Start prepping now — focusing on the growth opportunities these days provide can help build your continued momentum for change.
9. Acknowledge Faults and Address Them.
Nobody’s perfect. It’s true. But all of us — especially those of us in the tech industry — can start taking real steps to improve the environment that exists for women in the workplace. Often, this means tucking into an extra-large slice of humble pie and seeing our weaknesses with clear eyes.
“There are many companies working hard to right this dynamic, but no one company can do everything right, 100 percent of the time,” says Welson-Rossman. “The challenge is for companies to continue to strive for excellence and to be open to self-evaluation. The companies that are on the right path aren’t afraid to look inward and be honest with what works and what doesn’t.”
Google, as we noted earlier, is a good example of this. The tech giant is no stranger to the gender gap: its workforce is only comprised of 30 percent females and 79 percent of its leadership is male. And just recently, the company faced lawsuits from former female employees who alleged the tech giant enacted systemic pay discrimination and the denial of promotions and other growth opportunities. Yikes.
Since the release of these statistics and the litigation news, however, Google has made strides to improve their numbers and their work culture. In 2014, it announced a $50 million investment in programs that would help spark girls’ interest in STEM education, including a “Made With Code” campaign and partnerships with Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and the Girl Scouts of America. Another huge step: they’ve launched Women Techmakers, a membership initiative designed not only to empower women but to provide them with community and resources (like scholarships!).
Here’s an idea: talk about the issues. Address your current situation. A study showed that while 82 percent of men in startups thought their companies spent the “right amount of time” addressing diversity, nearly half of women — 40 percent — disagreed, saying “not enough time was devoted.”
“Companies must commit to diversity as a core value,” says Welson-Rossman. “And, once they do they must provide appropriate levels of support through training and mentorship programs to help new technologists grow and thrive.”
We have lots of ideas we’ve discussed here, but why not start there? Talk. Bring up these issues and make it a company-wide discussion. Then commit.
We all have conscious (and unconscious) biases and all make mistakes — it’s time to acknowledge them and begin tackling the issues. By discovering and unearthing our current lack, we can start to lift at the roots of the gender gap problem in tech, not just the branches.
Looking Towards the (Female) Future
Let’s return to Hollywood for a moment. Pinar Toprak was recently chosen as the first female composer to work on a movie for the Marvel Universe. She’s also the first female composer to score a major comic book movie for any studio. And if you’ve already made it to the theater to see Incredibles 2, you likely saw the short Bao, which was written and directed by Domee Shi. Bao is the first Pixar short to be directed by a woman.
The first female this or first female that shouldn’t be such a novelty. Whether in music, film, business, finance, art, or especially tech, “female-led” should be commonplace — and certainly not groundbreaking in 2018.
We need more women on the front lines of tech, influencing the future of our cultures and businesses for good. We need women. We need their work, their ideas, and their influence. We need their voices.
“Women in technology is more than just a headline or a political rallying cry,” says Welson-Rossman. “It’s a competitive business issue for companies of all types and sizes. America’s technology-enabled workforce is forecast to be short of 1 million employees by the year 2020. Women are critical to filling that tech worker gap. At the same time, studies have shown that companies are more competitive and profitable with diverse workforces and leadership. Bringing more women into the technology workforce produces a more competitive business environment that can fire on all cylinders and at full capacity.”
We can all move onward and upward — together. We can do it. (We feel it in our code.)