Women in the tech industry is getting more and more coverage in last couple of weeks and days, from the #ILookLikeAnEngineer tweet storm to the White House Demo Day event resulting in tech giants announcing plans to hire more women and minorities. Intel went even further, offering their employees bigger referral bonuses when recommending a woman candidate.
It is all part of a long-term public discussion about women in technology, or rather, addressing the fact that there is not enough women working in the technology sector. Despite high profile stories on successful women leading tech giants, the numbers are actually getting worse. In last two decades, there was a steady decline of women working in tech industry – from 35% in 1990 to just 26% in 2013. Some blame the pipeline, other the unfriendly “bro” culture or not favorable family policies that prevent women from building long-term careers in the tech industry. But the overall outcome is the same – 41% of women end up leaving tech jobs after couple of years.
Rachel Tomas provides deep insight into the topic in her latest story for medium.com. As a programmer, she discusses components of the tech culture which she states led her to leave her tech career, citing unconscious bias against women.
Ms. Tomas highlights several statistics from studies on gender disparities in the tech industry:
- Women being criticized for negative personality during 248 performance reviews of high-performers in tech in 85% of reviews but men only in 2% of reviews.
- Investors preferred entrepreneurial ventures pitched by a man than an identical pitch from a woman by a rate of 68% to 32% in a study conducted jointly by HBS, Wharton, and MIT Sloan.
- Harvard and CMU study showing that women who asked for a higher salary were rated as being more difficult to work with and less nice, but men were not perceived negatively for negotiating.
How can the tech industry make positive changes to be more inclusive of women? Ms. Tomas makes several recommendations:
- More comprehensive training of managers, especially in fast growing companies where engineers are often being promoted without any training at all.
- More formal hiring and promotion criteria to avoid decisions based on “gut feel” which is often unconsciously biased as learned from the above studies.
- Strong leadership implementing concrete measures to support unbiased culture and diversity.
- Regular audits on employee data such as comparison and evaluation of earnings, promotions, performance reviews, and attrition rates among genders.
- Cease encouraging and rewarding employees to stay late at work which besides risk of burnouts leads to discrimination of people with families.
- Create a collaborative environment instead of competitive one.
- Offer adequate maternity leave without compromises as requiring participation on teleconferences during leave.
Read Rachel Tomas’s full piece here.