8 Reasons We Need More Women in Technology

Women in Technology

Kimberly Bryant was introduced to computer programming as a college freshman. In those days, Apple Macintosh was a newbie and FORTRAN and Pascal were the popular languages. She says she “remembers being excited by the prospects” of a rewarding career after college, but that she also felt “culturally isolated.”

Today, Bryant (@6Gems) seeks to empower young women from all backgrounds to enter the tech world through her San Francisco non-profit organization, Black Girls Code, which teaches programming skills.

Growing up, Dessy Daskalov’s parents were constantly showing her cool tech stuff. She recalls the day her father first showed her Google’s search engine, which was at a time when most people were still using Ask Jeeves for answers to life’s questions. “He told me how amazing it was . . .  to have the ability to start from nothing, to build a big company and influence the world with it,” she says.

Today, Dessy is a Toronto-based software developer and the CTO and Co-Founder of Nudge Rewards, which builds mobile software that helps businesses deliver critical information to employees.

Women in technologyBoth of these women represent much of what’s right with women in tech. What they don’t reflect is a growing trend or an equal representation of women in the industry. And that’s a crying shame, because experts agree that we need more women in tech and the reason is simple: tech will get better. Today, women still represent just a small fraction of entrepreneurs, coders, engineers, and investors. That needs to change, and here are eight reasons why:

1) Diversity Matters

The tech industry is a global enterprise and needs to understand and represent its entire consumer base. Women’s choices are believed to have an impact on up to 85% of purchasing decisions. When tech companies don’t have enough of a female perspective, they lack accurate input and a crucial female voice to address this strong economic force.

2) The Future Belongs to Everyone

Computing isn’t going anywhere. It’s our present and it most certainly will be our future, as it’s likely it will connect us to every product we own as we delegate more and more of our everyday tasks to machines and algorithms. It’s imperative that women have a voice in the design of that future.

3) Exceptional Entrepreneurs Needed

It’s time to start prioritizing female entrepreneurship. If businesses are to thrive and simultaneously create more jobs, young women and girls need to be encouraged early to view entrepreneurship as a viable career. Britain’s Centre for Entrepreneurs has found that women are better calculated risk-takers, are less prone to overconfidence, more likely to take a long-term view as opposed to fast-term growth, and are overall more ambitious than men. It also found that women achieve success despite facing more obstacles and barriers than their male counterparts.

4) Discrimination and Gender Bias Need Reduction

Washington D.C.-based Women Who Tech (@womenwhotech), found that only 7% of investment cash goes to start-ups led by women, and only 13% of venture-backed companies have at least one founder who is a woman. Women in tech need to be viewed by recruiters and employers as equally capable, and their position and pay need to reflect that. Unfortunately, it is still all too common for women to be offered lower salaries for the exact jobs given to men at higher ones. Women need to be educated on their worth in the tech industry and demand appropriate compensation.

5) Innovation

Technology can only benefit from the fresh, original ideas and perspectives women bring to the table. When tech companies embrace diversity in their workforce, they help boost the rate at which they grow. Women in tech can more effectively address female customer needs, and that means a gain in revenues.

6) Help Wanted

By the year 2020, there will be more than one million tech-related jobs in the United States alone, but only enough graduates around to fill 39% of them. In that same time, it’s estimated that 50 billion devices or more will be connected to the internet, making a push for more women in tech all the more critical.

7) Does it Matter?

Yes it does. Women are severely underrepresented in science and tech. As a result, a multitude of real life problems that directly affect only women don’t get the attention they need and deserve. There needs to be an app for that.

8) Closing the Pay Gap

When you equal out the gender gap, you equal out the pay gap. For years it’s been noted that pink collar jobs tend to pay less than blue or white-collar jobs, even if the education and work required are equal. When more women move into the tech world (and more men move into traditional “women’s jobs”), wages will reflect a worker’s worth regardless of gender.

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How Do We Close The Gender Gap in Technology?

Gender Gap

Just about everywhere you look these days there’s another story about the gender gap which exists in the technology industry. News outlets often jump on flavor-of-the month topics, but this story is different in that real change is happening, with most of that change happening in tech start-ups, not only in Silicon Valley, but in other areas where tech is a growing industry.

Understanding the Gender Gap

Today women lead only 3% of tech startups and account for only 4% of senior venture partners. Whether it’s as security specialists, coders, developers, strategists, or writers, the lack of professional women is one of tech’s biggest problems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up under 20% of software developers, making it a major concern on a number of fronts.

Gender GapSoftware developers earn a median salary of over $90,000 per year, and underrepresentation by women in this and other well-paying tech jobs is troubling, given the 78 cents women still earn for every dollar earned by men. In addition, when women avoid tech careers it has an impact on tech companies’ growth, as the labor pool to draw from is smaller.

Funding the Change

The gender gap issue is also an ethnicity issue and an economic issue, and every one of these issues involves every one of us. If you are a woman seeking a job, if you have a daughter or niece who will one day enter the workforce, or if you’re just generally concerned about your area’s economic future, women’s capability to be equal technology partners matters. A study sponsored by workforce diversity leaders Ernst & Young and the Diana Project, resulted in a report by Babson College in 2013 that gender bias reveals itself in the patterns of venture capital investments. So it isn’t just hiring practices that have to change, but funding practices as well.

It’s pretty clear by now this a complicated issue that will not be solved overnight or with a magic wand. While several reports issued this year show that the gender gap in Silicon Valley is actually widening, there are mavericks in the area who are doing their part to set things right.

The Gender Gap Game-changers 

Salesforce, a cloud software company, is one such company. Co-founder and chief executive Marc Benioff one day came to the realization that his company was a part of the problem – the management meetings he was participating in were filled solely with men. He decided to do something about it, and in 2013 started Women’s Surge, with the goal of achieving 100% equality for women and men in pay and promotions. He also wanted to ensure that at least one-third of management meeting participants were women. Benioff knows Salesforce has a long way to go, but believes gender equality should be one of the top priorities for every CEO in the country.

The biggest tech players are finding it more difficult to react quickly to the gender gap dilemma. While tech firms like Google, Twitter and Facebook publicly report their diversity data, this year Pinterest took it one step further by publicly setting diversity goals for 2016. That passes as radical in the tech industry. Pinterest’s short-term goals are to increase non-engineering roles to 12% underrepresented backgrounds (note white or Asian); increase full-time engineering roles to 30% women and 8% underrepresented backgrounds; and ensure at least one woman is interviewed for openings in leadership positions. Small numbers, but a start.

Many in the industry believe greater strides in closing the gender gap will come not from the old tried and true way – rising through the (male-dominated) ranks – but from female entrepreneurs starting their own firms. In the past decade, there’s been a 57% increase in the number of women-owned firms with $10 million or more in revenue. The total number of such companies still hovers at around 20%, but the growth rate is brisk. Venture capitalists also continue to increase their support of women-led companies, albeit nowhere near the rate they fund men.

Another innovative approach that is gathering steam is attempting to automate hiring. Start-ups like Entelo and GapJumpers believe software can do a more effective and efficient job of non-biased hiring than people can, and many established headhunting firms like Korn Ferry are also buying into the idea.

The Key of Cultural Evolution

There are a great number of initiatives out there working to close the gender gap within the tech industry. Engineering schools run programs that enable women to become software engineers in 10-weeks, and networking events and organizations offer girls and women the hand up they need. Closing the gender gap is not a problem that will be solved in a short amount of time, but through tech industry culture changes, proactive initiatives and early encouragement of girls to enter the computer science fields, it’s something that can certainly improve.
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