The tech industry has long had a gender issue. Whether it be pay discrepancies between male and female employees or companies’ poor handling of sexual harassment claims, the tech sector has a long way to go when it comes to discrimination and equality. Not only do these issues frustrate and hold back employees, but it has adverse effects on the companies as well.
Findings from the 14th Annual Rosenzweig Report suggest that women continue to be held back, holding less than 10 percent of Named Executive Positions among Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded firms.
Women make up roughly half of the workforce and are increasingly among the most well-educated and best-performing employees. In the United States, women are more likely to hold bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men. Yet success in the classroom may not be resulting in success at the office – and discrimination may be to blame.
If women are being passed over for promotions, they’re having their careers unjustly damaged. And for tech companies, if promotions are being based on anything but performance, they’re not being as efficient and competitive as they otherwise could be. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg observed in the Rosenzweig Report:
“Hiring and promoting talented women isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s a core business imperative.”
Of course, deserving women should be promoted simply based on principles of justice and equality, not a company’s bottom line. Yet, if anything, women are being driven from the tech sector. Another study found that sexual harassment, bullying, and racist stereotyping were driving people out of the industry. In a study, one in ten women in tech reported sexual harassment, while 30 percent of women of color felt that they were passed over for a promotion due to their race.
The same study found that turnover due to unfairness was likely costing the tech industry $16 billion a year. And it should come as no surprise that turnover among women is twice as high as it is among men. This is going to hurt the tech industry as more talented women leave for fairer pastures.
Some companies have set a higher bar. At Netflix, some 47 percent of tech jobs are held by women, and women hold nearly half of the leadership positions as well. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft, where women hold just 20 percent of tech and leadership positions. Still, with only a few exceptions, women remain drastically underrepresented at most tech companies and in most c-suites.
All of this comes in spite of the tremendous role women have had in science and innovation. Did you know that the first computer, the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), was programmed by six women? In fact, women were the original “computers” at Harvard. In the 19th century, the Harvard College Observatory used women to calculate data gathered from the heavens. Meanwhile, Grace Hopper would play a vital role in developing the UNIVAC I computer, the first computer that targeted businesses.
Programming jobs would only later be dominated by men when the positions started to pay out big salaries and when the work became “cool.” And now that men dominate the industry, it seems that women are being discriminated against.
Of course, discrimination isn’t limited to just the tech industry and tech roles. The Rosenzweig Report found that women were being discriminated against across various departments. Interestingly, CFO is one of the most commonly held named executive titles for women in Canada. 13 CFOs are women.
Speaking to the New York Times, former McDonald’s COO Jan Fields claimed that she rose most smoothly when she was measured by pure metrics. Numbers don’t discriminate.
As for many of the decision makers at top companies? The results of the 14th Annual Rosenzweig Report and other studies suggest that discrimination is alive and well in 2019. Unfortunately, this means many careers are being unfairly held back. So too then are companies in tech and other fields as their best and brightest aren’t being given the chance to excel.