Recently on Update, we discussed the subject of 'women in tech' a.k.a. 'where are they?'.
If you're interested in listening to that episode, you can find it here:
Why is the tech industry such a ‘sausagefest’?
It’s an interesting question. There are obviously women working in technology, after all, i’m in tech myself albeit not front line. In fact, I sit directly opposite to a female front end developer and have had the pleasure of meeting many women in tech from CEOs to designers and developers. But if you were to ask a group of people to name key leaders or innovators in tech, do you think a woman will be their first thought? Probably not. You’d probably hear the usual suspects: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Instead, why don't we think of Hedy Lamarr or Marissa Mayer? Without Hedy Lamarr’s innovative skillset, we wouldn't even be able to enjoy the basics of wifi and bluetooth technology as we know it today.
There are clearly women working in technology based companies but are they working in tech based roles or are they working in HR? Project Management or Marketing? Delving into some data we found online for some of the biggest tech companies, Google’s gender divide is 70:30 in which only 17% of the 30% working in Google have roles within tech. Facebook had around 15% of its tech based roles filled by women whereas Twitter only has 10%.
Where are the techie women hiding eh?
Breaking the social norm
Exploring the sociological stereotype that men are ‘hunters & gatherers’ and women ‘nurturing, stay at home wives/mothers’, why are women so easily overlooked in tech? Is it because there simply aren't enough women applying for jobs? Or maybe its because women wouldn't ever consider tech?
If women are not considering tech based roles now, how do we then go about educating the next generation of women to consider and embrace technology?
Ultimately, we need to start from the beginning. A term commonly thrown around when discussing how social roles affect children is ‘pinkification’ of young girls i.e. pink, fluffy and sparkly. Instead of unconsciously encouraging pink for girls and blue for boys (with a huge difference in toys), teachers, parents and guardians could consider introducing alternative toys that spark conversation and begin introducing toys that challenge the mindset and arouse questions around the mechanics of the toy.
Princess Awesome are on the right track. They design dresses for girls that bear mathematical and scientific symbols. Why? Because they want to spark the conversation. If the next generation of tech heads and scientists are shown from a young age the endless opportunities available, then we may start to see an increase in women in technology.
Campaigns such as ‘Pretty Curious’ by EDF Energy aims to spark interest and conversation in young girl They found that only 1 in 7 women work in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) based roles . By identifying role models in the industry and utilising mainstream media channels, EDF Energy are at least trying to define the message and share it with the wider market.
Are women subjected to sexual harassment in tech?
A colleague of mine recently shared an article with me - exploring sexual harassment against women in Silicon Valley. Elephant in the Valley was a result of the Ellen Pao & KPCB trial. Surveying over 200 women working in the Bay area and Silicon Valley, they found some shocking statistics. 84% of survey respondents have been told they were too aggressive (with half hearing that on multiple occasions) and 88% have experienced clients/colleagues address questions to male peers that should be addressed to them. Whilst there are many more stats available on their website, it did make me and my colleagues explore whether or not we have ever been subjected to any form of sexual discrimination.
Speaking from my own experience, I have been asked about my martial status, plans to start a family etc etc. At the time, I didn't think twice but on reflection, is this down to the fear that I may get married and start popping out children, thus, going on maternity leave?
In our podcast discussing this subject widely, we raise the point of hiring managers. Whilst we may currently see hiring managers and decision makers to be predominately (probably) men, by the time the youth of today are in our position, there may possibly be more open-minded individuals in decision making roles. Therefore, we now have the opportunity to pave the way for more girls to join STEM based roles.
So whats next?
I firmly believe that we are on the right track. Discussing ‘sausage-ridden’ industries in open forums, admitting that we have been subjected to sexual discrimination and highlighting the cause to a wider audience via research, TV and cinema all helps to raise the profile of the industry we work in. Continue pushing forward, encouraging women in tech based roles and hire women in decision making roles. Simple right?
If this subject matter interests you or is a matter close to your heart, download our podcast where we discuss the above points and more in greater detail.
Written by Sarrah Ahmed