Why Women In Tech Can Make All The Difference

By Jori Hamilton

If you’re a woman in tech or thinking about taking a job in the tech industry, the numbers are intimidating: women hold only 20% of tech jobs. With over 600,000 tech jobs vacant at any given time, why aren’t women pursuing these jobs, which generally pay well?

Let’s examine the reasons behind the low numbers as well as how women in tech make a positive impact despite being a minority in their industry.

Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?

While over 80% of school-age girls are interested in STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) jobs, only 13% consider STEM fields their first choice. Most girls lose interest in STEM over time, indicating an initial disconnect in school, likely due to social conditioning.

You can ask any woman in tech and they’ll tell you that, from martech conferences to Silicon Valley lunch outings at strip clubs, most tech events are not exactly conducive to promoting a culture of inclusion or value for women.

The truth hurts, too. When women traditionally perform certain job duties, those jobs don’t pay as much. Take a look at administrative roles, per diem nursing jobs, or the first computer coders. While two men invented the ENIAC machine, the six women using it developed the first software program, computer storage, and protocol and became the initial teachers in their new field.

Since computer programming was a new field, men returning from World War II didn’t boot women from these jobs, mainly because the veterans didn’t have the expertise for this new field. It became women’s work, and it didn’t pay well. Programming pioneer Grace Hopper later leveraged gender roles and stereotypes to encourage women to enter the field.

Additionally, male-dominated industry giants and media corporations have consistently neglected to recognize women of color in the computer programming field. In the movie “Hidden Figures,” we watched black women computers (that was the job title before machines assisted) become programmers as technology emerged. But for the movie and the true story it’s based on, history would have forgotten this herstory.

Everything changed in the 1980s with the introduction of the personal computer. While you’d think this would make computers more accessible to everyone, computers, video games and gaming consoles were marketed heavily towards boys. Apple was also the beginning of startup culture as we know it, and it was a boys’ club.

Women who have worked in Silicon Valley and other startup cultures have the same stories about golf course deals and sexual advances in the boardroom, and as programming and technology are so heavily integrated with movies, music, video games, and other pop culture we consume, representation is imperative.

Why Do Women in Tech Matter?

Beyond the ethics of creating technology inclusively, there are some other important reasons to ensure the inclusion of women in tech.

  • Profitability matters: Women make up an increasing number of consumers of technology. We want technology that fits with our life, and we are ready to lead. In the next seven years, women could bring in $28 trillion in GDP (gross domestic product). Additionally, when women run startups, we make 150% more than our male counterparts. As long as we’re in a capitalist system, this money matters.
  • Representation matters: Girls and young women need to see themselves represented in the tech industry to know they can succeed. It’s hard to dream it if you don’t see it.
  • Innovation isn’t optional: When it comes to technology, you need innovative, creative team members and women bring these solutions to the table. We’re conditioned towards collaborative solutions.

Despite the obvious benefits to including women, there is still a clear missing presence in the tech field. The only way to remedy this is for tech culture needs to change. It’s one thing for a company to invite women to apply or to target job ads to us; it’s another to create and maintain a culture where we feel comfortable.

The Future of Women in Tech

At first glance, there’s hope: 40% of statistics students are women, which provides an encouraging look at the amount of women interested in STEAM and STEM. However, women are further marginalized in tech because our roles aren’t counted. If you’re only looking at programmers, the numbers are pretty abysmal, but when you include data scientists and necessary design thinking, it’s clear that women are participating but are limited by the definition of what constitutes “tech.”There’s also the issue of intersectionality: some women face multiple marginalizations due to race or disability with half of black women in tech reporting stagnation in their careers.

But through representation and mentorship (from all genders), girls can retain their initial love for technology. On the corporate level, companies can conduct internal audits and work to close the wage gap. Women and allies in tech can speak up, amplify, use inclusive language, mentor, nominate, invite, and ensure inclusivity on tech panels to ensure a brighter future for women in tech.

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her work on twitter @hamiltonjori or https://writerjorihamilton.contently.com

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