Women In Tech
The 30% Threshold
Technology redefined the way our world operates. Digital technology, in particular, empowered all of us with the ability to contribute to the world’s progress. The internet has opened an unrestricted access to the highest highs and the lowest lows of human nature which made it the most diverse and polar way of communication between generations.
And this is where things start looking inherently wrong: the most liberal and honest (if you know where to look) means of preserving and gaining information, the best resource of enlightenment, and the most facilitating industry in the life of an average citizen, is 70% created and run by men.
By no means can the idea of women being mentally inferior to men in the aspect of technology, be viable in 2017. Considering the variety of tech-related jobs and the unconventional ways of approaching business in IT, there seems to be no reason for women to willingly stay out of it. The physical aspect is not relevant either; sedentary jobs display no significant difference in productivity rates for both genders. Apparently, there are some hidden reasons for why only 30% women are involved in digital technology and if it is not a conspiracy or sheer undercover injustice, which I am skeptical about, then it has to be a display of spontaneous forces overlapping and intermingling things to our common harm.
The K-12 education, as the successor of the system established in the early 1900s, presents a compulsory schooling process with a traditional approach. Rooted in the era of the cold war, this system perpetuated a definitive segregation of types of disciplines and sciences taught. From the standpoint of military application, women had been generally deprived of the opportunities to pursue a career gearing towards technology.
Times have changed but the rigidness of school education system became ingrained in the minds of generations projecting the “let the church stand in the churchyard” attitude and commanding women to stick to the liberal arts rather than STEM disciplines.
The introduction of computer sciences into school programs as the result of computerization of consumer electronics was supposed to create an even playing field for the incipient Millennial generation. Despite the rise of gigantic corporations working solely in the digital industry, the number of Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Courses has decreased. Add to that the rudimentary parental and societal stereotype threat and a planted inferiority complex, and you’ll get the situation where women go to universities without even viewing IT sciences as a career option. Those who do enter majoring in CS, often face the adversity of being around a biased and better-prepared male community, which results in a high rate of dropouts.
Education certainly plays a huge role discovering the perspectives for teenagers to choose from. That’s why having an archaic system with either biased attitude or neglect for certain aspects of education is one of the reasons for the unbalance. As Mike Monteiro puts it:
“We need women and minorities in positions of leadership. And we need to deal with the educational system so that we increase the diversity of people available to interview.”
Because Bro Culture?
There is no doubt, women do need to develop a thick skin to graduate with a degree in computer sciences but what happens then? Turns out a degree alone doesn’t mean an immediate employment on your terms. The stereotypes keep coming.
The same historic reasons for men being involved in operating heavy machinery, metal works, electrical engineering, and so on, made them more susceptible to perform better in the digital industry, while women are assigned to the peripheral jobs as sales, QA engineers, tech writers, or support specialists. I’m not sayings there’s something wrong with these jobs, a lot of them are higher compensated than average engineering jobs, but they are unlikely to lead to executive and higher management positions.
Pop culture contributes to the mainstreamification of the white male startup success stories. An iconic image of a tech team showcases a striking resemblance to an artillery squad.
It gets worse. Some companies propagate artificial diversity as a means to gain social capital. What they do in reality is aggravate the imbalance. They contort the real state of things by hypocritically acting like equality is their true value while all they are doing is earning points.
At least the honest beliefs that men are superior to women in technology overall and what they are doing is way too hard, can be changed given enough experience. The last thing we need is categorization based on any criteria besides the individual ones. What we require though is a fair and unbiased opportunity supply for everyone regardless of gender and race.
The unfortunate elephant in the room has to be addressed here. Most men have no idea what it’s like to be a victim of sexual assault or harassment. We can only imagine the repercussions these events might have on personal and professional levels. With that said, 1 of 3 women has been sexually harassed at work. Taking into account the specifics of an industry where the 30% women employee threshold is yet a bright outlook, I can only imagine what it might look like for a woman fresh out of college looking to get an engineering job in a software company.
Even though cases of harassment are not frequently getting exposed, the ones that do get publicity are terrifying. I don’t mean to compare the far more sincere, righteous, and healthy industry of technology to say, the movie business where the #MeToo social media avalanche has only unveiled one (!) case of allegedly, many, but it certainly does not play into our hands that these type of allegations are even possible.
Harassment of any kind is a dangerous, ugly, and absolutely redundant artifact of the times when the numerical or physical superiority had been a free pass for impunity. There can be no apology, justification, or indulgence of any display of such behavior. The male-dominant tech industry in that sense is no different.
What’s On The Other Side?
There is a stunning imbalance in women’s right in the world, to begin with. So, obviously, the problems the US is facing are hypertrophied in a lot of places. My company’s engineering team is based in Russia that is traditionally known to institutionally guarantee equal rights to women and men. With that, women have the right to paid maternity leave and paid parental leave. Also, there is a list of 456 occupations forbidden to women as they are considered “too dangerous to their health”. For example, the list contains the profession of a vessel captain, firefighter, lumberer, diver, slaughterer, etc.
In a lot of places, Shakuro included, gender is a negligible factor. The only thing that matters is the professionalism because the intensity of work in some aspects is higher than average in the world. Over a decade of work in IT, we’ve had women employed as designers, marketers, developers, QA engineers, PMs, and so on. The top management team benefits from the diversity which results in better performance. With that, we do follow a code of ethics and morale on top of the legal obligations which creates a real team bond that goes beyond just work.
What’s Being Done?
There is a movement going on to increase female presence and diversity in IT. In 2017, Google surpassed 31% of women employed in the company overall, while still caving in at tech and leadership. IBM has reached 29% women, Yelp has announced the first ever female chairperson of the board, Intel promises to reach “full representation of women in US-based Intel department in 2018, HP showcases the impressive 55% women involved in legal, finance, HR, and marketing. Not exactly the tech lead roles, but the dynamic is there. Equals Global Partnership runs annual EQUALS in Tech Awards to highlight talented women in tech across the world.
A lot of media giants like LinkedIn, Facebook, Mozilla, Python, and Spotify provide sponsorship for tech conferences to increase women involvement in coding. A Clear demonstration of “diversity and inclusion” policy in tech companies has become a thing of prestige and a true sign of progress.
Anyone can code. All the impediments and restrictions are purely artificial and result from a complex social process often times unintentional, uncontrolled, but harmful. The chaos can be defeated by order and order is only reachable if you break things down. In our attempts to study the manifestation of the women in tech problem, we’ll ultimately find the solution.
The first programmer in the history of humankind is Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron. She was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.