Women are excelling in various industries, thanks to the rising numbers of female graduates entering the workforce. Despite their success in numerous fields, STEM, particularly technology, remains an elusive goal for many. This lack of gender equality in tech isn’t entirely due to disinterest — many young girls express enthusiasm for tech and similar fields. However, this tends to taper off toward high school. A survey from Junior Achievement revealed that only nine percent of high school-aged girls showed interest in STEM, down from 11 percent in 2018. Girls are often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers because of societal expectations for them to pursue more “feminine” roles, such as service jobs and teaching. A lack of female mentors and leaders also contributes to the decline. Women are less likely to enter a specific industry if they know they’re underrepresented in it.
This phenomenon leads to fewer women joining the tech workforce and its related fields. The lack of women in tech becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it has long remained like this, with only incremental changes. Hopefully, more people will find and implement ways to solve this problem as the new decade begins.
A History of Inequality
Although perspectives have begun to shift in the tech field, women have consistently suffered from unfair treatment when it comes to the job search. Pay gaps and gender- and race-based harassment have deterred women from the field for years. Only four percent of the computing workforce consists of women of color, yet they make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. Black, Latina, and Native American women tend to face more racial obstacles than white or Asian women — but Asian women still struggle to obtain leadership positions.
Many women in tech positions have experienced sexual harassment from male coworkers or bosses. Although many have shared their stories, there are undoubtedly many more who haven’t. Many sexual crimes go unreported because of fears about skepticism, job loss, or retaliation. Gesche Haas, the founder of the social network Dreamers // Doers, is one of many women who’s received death threats in response to revealing the truth.
Other women battle stereotypes about being less adept at STEM or being unreliable because they may leave to start families. Some students never receive the accessibility they need due to a lack of school funding. Countless factors, from microaggressions to outright sexism and racism, explain why gender equality is still low in many tech companies.
Breaking It Down by Field
Computer science, information technology, and data collection are a few fields that notoriously lack female workers. Computer support technicians are projected to see a 10 percent increase in job growth, yet many of these positions remain unfulfilled.
Women hold only 19 percent of bachelor’s degrees for computer and information science majors. Similarly, women have filled 29 percent science and engineering positions across the U.S., which is only a six percent increase from 1993.
A higher female presence exists in the social and life sciences, but it’s not enough to push women toward one industry and not others. STEM jobs across the U.S. remain open because there aren’t enough qualified applicants. It’s more important than ever to have women in tech companies, from entry-level workers to CEOs. Societies across the world depend on technological advancements to assist with better education, cleaner food and water, and increased job opportunities.
The STEM sector will have a harder time providing much-needed help without diverse viewpoints. Diversity in the workplace doesn’t exist to check off a box or fill a quota. It exposes people to perspectives they hadn’t considered before, and it encourages more creativity with problem-solving. Better ideas bring bigger profits, which is something virtually all companies want. Educating girls and hiring more women is the best way to achieve this.
Ways to Change the Tide
Tech companies can do more to get women through the door by establishing fair policies, addressing internal gender biases and seeking out female applicants. Some interviewers select applicants through a biased lens and give less opportunity to female candidates — whether they recognize it or not. Businesses should establish objective criteria for the employees they want and stick to these rather than leading with preconceived notions.
Tools like the Gender Decoder allow you to analyze job listing text for gender biases, although this kind of tech isn’t foolproof. Professionals should always consider if using artificial intelligence is the best practice for their purpose. Even machines can show biases, which arise from their creators’ thoughts and feelings.
The company Salesforce has created a pay audit that recognizes unexplained discrepancies between women’s and men’s pay and compensates employees for the difference. Though parental leave is lacking in the U.S., Netflix, Prudential, and Google have extended their policies to fit the needs of new parents. Every industry can afford to do much more to funnel women into executive positions and give them fair pay, and the tech field can take valuable notes from leading companies.
A Metamorphosis of Current Technology
STEM’s lack of inclusivity doesn’t have to remain an issue forever. If businesses are willing to change their policies, they can become shining examples for other organizations to do the same. Technology needs a diverse landscape to advance and grow, and it can only accomplish this with a willingness to transform.