The tech space offers plenty of exciting and outstanding topics to divulge and discuss, from the recent cryptocurrency surge and its effects on the financial system as we know it, to the ongoing discussion on artificial intelligence and the ethical consequences developing actual thinking machines.
Nevertheless, we must also look at the people working on these tools, day in and day out, and by doing so, we face tech’s most ancient and outdated trait, its gender gap.
By 2020, even though women make up almost half the global workforce, they hold just about 25% of jobs in the technology sector. This rate decreases as we go up the corporate ladder onto more leadership roles, representing only 5%, according to PwC UK.
But the efforts behind making the tech world a more inclusive and diverse space don’t respond to gender politics or it comes down to creating better work environments for the women already invested in these areas.
Regarding leadership, for example, Sarah Martin, community content developer at Exabeam, one of San Francisco’s most significant security firms, recounts that being the only woman at a junior position surrounded by male counterparts not only made her feel out of place but stifled her growth moving forward. According to Martin, not having a female partner or superior at the time reduced her role fetching coffee, taking meeting notes, and managing other people’s schedules.
Besides the blatant misogyny surrounding Martin’s experience, these also respond to a problem regarding tech companies’ culture. According to a study made by Accenture and Girls who Code, 37% of respondents cited company culture as the reason for abandoning a tech career.
That same study showed that 50% of women abandon technology careers by the age of 35 and that women are leaving tech roles at a 45% higher rate than men.
Mismo’s own Marjorie Valverde pinpoints culture as one of the critical factors needed to retain a tech industry job. From having female superiors and collaborators to the hiring processes, and schedule flexibility, all these components create a comfortable and efficient working space for female engineers and developers.
“As female engineers working in the industry, we must raise our hand and be visible, we have to show that we are here and that our work can speak for itself, that we can do whatever our male counterparts can do, and sometimes even better,” commented Valverde.
Only 21% of women in the Accenture/Girls who Code study said they believed the technology industry was a place they could thrive. Nevertheless, Valverde is planning on achieving higher managerial positions and specializing in project management, which she always says has interested her.
Now, what can we do to change these low numbers?
First, we must be aware of the areas that need to change—starting with the media. The underrepresentation of women in tech follows a trend of underrepresentation in other forums, like media outlets and scientific publications. 78% of students couldn’t name a famous woman working in tech, according to a PwC study made in the UK.
The way girls and boys learn about tech adds to the problem, with most students having a perception problem regarding tech jobs and their real implication in modern life. According to the study, teachers have failed to transmit the creative and dynamic characteristics of tech-based employment. Most of the focus is geared towards understanding people’s behavior and developing digital user experiences.
Confidence in their skills is also a significant issue detouring females from tech-related ventures. A 2017 study found that 62% of male respondents majoring in technology stated they were confident in their programming abilities, while only 41% of female respondents were confident in their abilities in the US.
The study also showed insights regarding these students’ core support systems and revealed that their families were the primary encouragement source regarding their STEM careers. Here’s a significant opportunity for parents to take a stance and overhaul how families look at tech.
Besides better programming workshops at school and greater technical focus on computer science and information science at high schools, the report also suggests more female technology role models on television and more women being referenced as specialized sources in the media. The work being done by these women should be depicted as a way to help other people and show the benefits of majoring in technology and not always follow the “nerd” stereotype.
As far as corporate culture goes, female-led groups and collectives are essential, not only for visibility but also for internal support regarding other job opportunities and future education goals. After Sarah Smith’s rocky start at Exabeam, a female-centered collective was born named ExaGals, with the mission to harmonize and usher the company’s culture and impact the broader tech community, supporting and building programs geared towards advancing women in tech.
At Mismo, our mission is to create better spaces for women engineers, from equal opportunity hiring practices, to flexible schedules and equal access to both educational opportunities and job growth.
As Marjorie Valverde puts it, “it’s important to continue to self-evaluate, refine what is important in your career path, and remain constant regardless of the context or outside challenges we might face.”