Are Women in Tech Facing Extinction?

We hear a lot about how few women work in tech. The numbers range from 3 percent in open source to 25 percent industry-wide. But frankly, those aren’t the numbers that scare me most. The numbers that scare the hell out me are the ones that underscore how many women are choosing to leave tech.

The latest NCWIT data shows that women leave tech at twice the rate of men, and that number has been increasing since 1991. A Harvard Business Review study found that as many as 50 percent of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.

As a young, very talented female programmer recently told me: “I don’t want to leave tech but after a year into my first job, I’m considering it.”

The tech industry is known for being fun, fast-moving, sexy and lucrative. Just this week Apple introduced its latest iPhone and the event and resulting media attention was no less buzzworthy than a blockbuster movie premiere. But increasingly, we’re realizing something isn’t quite right. People in positions of power and privilege are talking about making the world a better place but can’t seem to get inclusion right in their own companies.

There is so much at stake. If we can’t collectively get it right, the tech industry could suffer and the very foundation of our economy could crack. Tech jobs are the most lucrative jobs in the world, so women need both access to these opportunities and the desire to pursue them. And we need women and more minorities building technologies that today are being consumed by an increasingly global and diverse population. Furthermore, we know that businesses with a diverse workforce perform better than others.

About a year ago, as the volume on this topic was building but no proposed solutions to increase diversity were working, I posed a question to myself: “What can you do to help? Cause this is a big ass, scary deal happening right in your own backyard.” After nearly 17 years in tech PR and as an early storyteller for the Linux and open source communities, I already knew I wanted to start my own PR and storytelling firm. If I could start my own business, maybe I could also create time and space to do my small part to ensure women have a place in tech.

One year and two new businesses later, I’m excited to share the release of the trailer for The Chasing Grace Project, a six-episode documentary series about women in tech. Each episode is focused on a different topic within the women in tech narrative. From the pay gap, online harassment and female entrepreneurship to access to the best jobs, the decision to leave or stay in tech and the role of male allies, the series will illustrate how we pave the way forward.

By telling the stories of adversity in all their gritty detail, we can begin to see how women are rising above them, moving past them and paving their own paths to successful careers in tech. The Project aims to give a voice to the everyday women in tech, not just the ones who make the headlines. Because what we read about in Newsweek, The Atlantic and The New York Times is happening every day.

The women we’ve talked to love tech. They love to build; they love to manage projects; they love to bring communities together; they love to invent and innovate. They want to be here. At least for now.

We hope The Chasing Grace Project can provide the blueprints for other women to find their paths, their way, hopefully preventing extinction of women in tech and helping to retain the best and brightest female talent in the world.

A special thank you to my Wicked Flicks Productions co-founder and Chasing Grace Project director Gary Schillinger and early Project sponsors The Linux Foundation and Cloud Foundry Foundation. And most of all, thank you to all of the women who responded to our call for stories. Just four of their stories begin in the trailer, but we have so much to share in the coming months and year. Sign up on our website for regular updates and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.