It’s no secret that the technology sector lacks gender diversity and that the gender gap in tech has been a problem for quite some time. There have never been enough women in IT, and according to a recent Op/Ed article in the LA Times, it’s becoming worse.
Take Microsoft for example. In January, the company released its own diversity stats, and they don’t paint a pretty picture about women in IT at the company. 76% of the company’s workforce is male, while only 24% are female. At the management level, 88% of Microsoft executives are male.
The good thing is women are beginning to become more interested in pursuing degrees in computer technology again thanks to society realizing this is an issue largely due to the actions of non-profit groups like Girls in Tech in raising awareness of the gender disparity. In addition, many universities have begun to encourage women to get involved in these lesser-pursued majors in recent years.
It’s not that women aren’t becoming educated or qualified enough to become programmers, managers, or technicians, though. Women in tech are just as capable of doing the job as men. The article in the LA Times, however, cites a subtle culture of discrimination, with women less likely to earn promotions or the respect of their peers.
The problem is related to psychology and cultural bias. History tells us there hasn’t been very much gender diversity in tech. Women haven’t been programmers. They haven’t been techies. It’s no surprise to us, given this historical footnote that has been beaten into our brains that men sometimes come across as shocked when their new lady co-worker shows up for her first day on the job.
Some men, while they don’t explicitly say it, have a preconceived bias against women in tech. Many women in tech have a different nagging feeling in their head, and inexplicitly wonder if they belong in the first place.
These things cause women to leave computer science jobs and never come back. Disparities in gender diversity in technology problems can only get worse, as computing jobs are projected to double to 1.4 million by 2020.
Many large companies in Silicon Valley and across the country need to make subtle changes to the way they view women in the workforce – from hiring, all the way to retirement, while taking off-boarding seriously if someone doesn’t get to retirement with your company.
Getting to the bottom of the true reason for a departure, treating resources fairly and addressing any issues that may have been caused by cultural bias are important ways for IT companies to continue supporting the development of women in technology roles.
Companies should always educate employees on diversity, engage coworkers as equals and evaluate any issues.
As business owners, when dealing with women in IT, it’s important to tell yourself “They work for me, so I need to work with them.” Let their work speak for itself. Recommend promotions and raises based on the work being done, not the ability of an employee to stand up and ask for a raise, because women especially aren’t as likely to do that.
It’s important that companies keep the cultural bias in mind do what they can to eliminate the unfortunate consequences of it on their own teams. With the industry growing to record levels in the coming years, maintaining qualified women in tech will become more important than ever before.