number of women in computer science has dropped off steeply in the last twenty years, while the technology industry has grown dramatically, and technology companies are complaining that they cannot find enough workers. Here are some interesting facts:
- In 1985, women made up 37 percent of undergraduates majoring in computer sciences. In 2012, less than 18 percent were women, according to the National Science Foundation.
- In 1990, 34 percent of those employed in computer occupations were women. By 2011, 27 percent were women, according to the US Census Bureau.
- An editorial in the New York Times on October 25, 2014, shared that a 2008 report published by the Harvard Business Review found that women quit high-tech jobs at twice the rate of men.
- At Microsoft, only 17 percent of the technological positions are occupied by women, which is average in the industry.
No one factor can explain the poor representation of women in technology, but the unwelcoming cultures and biases in many technology companies have to play a big part. Consider these challenges women face in technology environments:
- Being the only woman on a team or in a meeting can get lonely.
- Masculine workplace cultures often value or condone very combative and competitive behavior that is uncomfortable for many women.
- Women often feel talked down to or are given subtle messages that they don’t belong in technology.
- Some women feel their male bosses give credit to male peers for work they have done. They feel invisible.
There is a general cluelessness among many male leaders. The chief executive at Microsoft recently told a room full of professional women
that they don’t need to ask for raises. They should just trust the system to be equitable, and they will get raises if their karma is good. Really? Where has he been?
My niece recently graduated from engineering school where she was one of very few women. She now has her first job with a large aeronautics company, and she loves her job. She was crying when she called me one day recently. One of her male peers had said to her, “Forget about advancing here. Just look around. You’ll see that women don’t make it as engineers, and you won’t make it either.” She asked me, “Is it true?” This conversation with her broke my heart.
A spate of recent articles
have put a spotlight on the gender gap in technology companies. This attention is causing some of these companies to admit they need to change and become more welcoming to women. This is hopeful. Women are just as talented in math and science as men, and we want jobs that pay well like those in technology. What we need is the chance to work in environments where we can thrive. Let’s keep up the pressure for change.