The Latest Stats on Women in Tech
In the last couple of decades, the world has made huge strides when it comes to women involvement in the workforce. According to a report by Catalyst, women make up nearly half (46.9%) of the total workforce.
Despite all the progress that has been made by women, things do not look so rosy when it comes to the tech industry.
For decades, careers in the tech industry and other STEM fields have not been so welcoming to women.
There is a huge gender gap between men and women in the STEM fields.
This gap manifests itself through various aspects, including employment opportunities, wages, leadership opportunities, perception at the workplace, and so on.
In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the latest stats to give us a better picture of the state of affairs for women in tech today.
WOMEN ONLY HOLD A QUARTER OF ALL TECH JOBS
Ever wondered how many women work in the tech industry?
According to Adeva IT, as of 2018, women held only 25% of all the jobs in the tech industry, despite women making up almost half of the total workforce.
What’s worse, this number is lower than the percentage of tech jobs held by women back in the 1980s.
GIRLS ARE LESS LIKELY TO STUDY STEM SUBJECTS
One of the reasons why there is a lower percentage of women working in the tech industry compared to other industries is that girls are less likely to study STEM subjects compared to boys.
According to a Women In Tech report by PWC, among the students participating in the research, more boys opted for STEM subjects compared to girls, except for biology.
This is true both in high school and in university.
According to the research, 83% of boys in high school opt for STEM subjects, while only 64% of girls opt for STEM subjects.
The report also found that 17% of boys study physics, compared to just 7% of girls.
The same gender disparity is evident at the university, where 52% of males take STEM related courses, in contrast to only 30% of females.
The gap is even bigger when it comes to courses like engineering. 13% of the surveyed male university students were taking engineering courses, compared to just 2% of female university students.
There are a number of reasons why girls are less likely to study STEM subjects compared to boys.
According to the report, some girls avoid STEM subjects because they feel that they are better in humanities and other essay based subjects.
Others avoid STEM subjects because they do not find them interesting.
Some girls also avoid STEM subjects because they don’t consider them to be relevant to the career paths they intend to choose.
Other reasons include the need to get the highest grades they can to increase their chances of university placement (STEM subjects are considered to be harder) and teachers making STEM subjects appear unappealing.
The report also found that the intended career choice has varying influence on choice of A-Level subjects between boys and girls. 53% of girls choose their A-Level subjects based on their preferred career, compared to just 43% of boys.
This means that while girls are more likely to think ahead when choosing their A-Level subjects, a significant number of them avoid STEM subjects because they don’t see themselves following a career in technology.
The reason behind this is explained in the next point.
MORE THAN TWO THIRDS OF FEMALES DO NOT CONSIDER A CAREER IN TECH
The gender disparity that starts in high school and university becomes even more pronounced when it comes to making career choices.
The research by PWC reports that of all the female respondents, only 27% said that they would consider a tech career.
This is in contrast to 62% of males. In addition, only 3% of females would opt for a tech career as their first choice, in contrast to 15% of males.
There are a number of reasons why females are less likely to consider a career in tech. First, many females do not consider a tech career because it is not being put forward as one of the options they can take.
Whereas 33% of male respondents reported that they had someone suggest a tech career to them, only 16% of females reported to have received similar suggestion.
The fact that careers in tech are not suggested to females helps to further the stereotype that the tech industry is a man’s world.
This view of the tech industry as a male dominated field has also kept a significant number of women from considering careers in this field.
In addition, many females are less likely to consider a career in tech because they don’t have enough information about what working in the technology industry entails.
Another reason why females are less likely to consider a career in the tech industry is that there are not enough female role models within the industry.
When asked to name someone they would like to emulate in their future careers, 34% of the respondents had no trouble naming a successful person in the industry they were interested in.
Most importantly, there wasn’t any significant disparity in the genders of the named personalities.
Yet when the respondents were asked to name someone that inspired them to follow a career in the tech industry, 83% of female respondents were unable to name someone. In contrast, only 59% of male respondents were unable to name someone.
This shows that there aren’t enough role models in the tech industry for females.
In addition, when the respondents, both male and female, were asked to name a famous man in the tech industry, 66% were able to do it.
However, when the question was flipped and they were asked to name a famous woman in the tech industry, only 22% could do it.
This shortage of female role models in the tech industry also helps to reinforce the perception that careers in the tech industry are generally not for women.
It’s good to note that the shortage of female role models in the tech industry does not mean that women haven’t made any significant contributions to the field.
Women have actually been the brains behind some of the biggest achievements within the industry.
Unfortunately, their contributions have gone unrecognized in most cases. In some cases, men have even taken credit for the achievements of women.
For instance, the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) – the world’s first electric computer, which was used during The Second World War – was programmed by six women.
However, these women were given no credit for their work, despite the fact that ENIAC couldn’t have worked without their contribution. Instead, they were only referred to in photos as “models.”
They weren’t even considered important enough to be invited to the ENIAC project’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Such cases of the efforts of women in the tech industry going unrecognized have led to the perception that women have not made any significant contributions, hence the lack of female role models.
WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO QUIT TECH INDUSTRY JOBS
Already, there are less women getting into tech careers than men.
To make matters even worse, women are more likely to quit these jobs compared to men.
According to a report by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the turnover rate for women in tech industry is 41%, compared to just 17% for men.
Among women who leave, 24% completely quit the industry and take up non-technical jobs, 22% opt for self-employment within the tech industry, 20% take a break from being part of the workforce, and 10% take up jobs with startup companies.
EQUALITY DECREASES WITH RISE IN SENIORITY
The proportion of women in tech jobs decreases as you rise up the career ladder. In other words, the ratio of women to men is lower in executive and other leadership positions within the tech industry.
According to a report by Entelo, there are about 19% of women in entry level and mid-level roles in the tech industry. At the senior level, however, women hold only 16% of positions.
As you go even higher, this number drops even lower, with women holding just 10% of executive level positions.
Aside from being passed over for top positions, the growth of women in tech careers is also delayed.
A survey conducted by HackerRank found that 20.4% of women over the age of 35 in the tech sector remain in junior level positions, in contrast to just 5.9% of men over the age of 35.
Actually, the survey found that women are more likely than men to hold junior level positions in the tech industry, regardless of their age.
WOMEN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY EARN LESS THAN THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS
According to Adeva IT, the median man in Silicon Valley earns 61% more than the median woman.
TechCrunch also reports that 63% of the time, men are given higher salary offers than women, despite being in the same job at the same company.
This disparity in salaries between men and women in tech results in women losing a significant portion of the lifetime earnings they would have taken home had they been paid the same as their male colleagues.
This disparity is not restricted to just salaries either. It applies to investments as well.
In 2016, female-led companies received investments worth $4.5 million on average from venture capitalists. In contrast, male-led companies received investments worth $10.9 million on average.
WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE PERCEIVED AS INCOMPETENT
Aside from women being less in the tech industry, being paid less than their male counterparts, and being passed over for top positions, women in tech are also more likely to be seen as less skilled than their male counterparts – even if they are not.
In other words, work done by women is perceived to be of a lower quality just because it was done by women. The same work would be perceived as high quality work if it was presented by a man.
In a study conducted on GitHub users, it was found that code written by female coders was accepted 78% of the time.
This was 4% more than the acceptance rate of code from male coders. However, this was only true provided the gender of the coder was unknown.
In effect, this means that women are better at coding than men, provided their gender is not revealed.
WOMEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE PUSHED TO NON-TECHNICAL ROLES
The bias against women in the tech industry can also be seen in the kind of roles women are assigned.
One study found that women in the industry are more likely to be pushed into roles termed as “execution” roles, which are generally non-technical.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be assigned the more technical “creator” roles.
For instance, the top position for women in tech is “Project Manager,” whereas the top position for men in tech is “Software Engineer.” This bias is based off the stereotype that women are not good in technical roles.
WHAT DO THESE STATS MEAN?
The above stats show that despite all the huge strides that have been made in regards to representation of women in the workforce, there is still a lot of inequality in the tech industry.
What’s more, it doesn’t look like this inequality will end any time soon.
In addition, the world is at a point in time where most aspects of our working and personal lives are becoming shaped by technology.
Unfortunately, the low number of women in tech means that most tech products and services are designed from the male perspective and to meet the needs of male users, even if they are meant to be used by both men and women.
The key to making the needs of women met when designing and building tech products and services is to bring more women aboard in the tech industry.
Finally, the gender gap in the tech industry means that women are not getting enough opportunities to play a part in shaping the future of society.
Considering that the technology being built today has a huge influence on the future of mankind, the gender disparity means that at the moment, men are playing a much bigger role in shaping the future compared to women.
THE WAY FORWARD
Having established that there is a huge gender gap, there are a number of steps that can be taken to increase the number of women working in the tech industry. These include:
The Industry Should Get Involved in Educating Students About Tech and its Role in Shaping the World
We saw earlier that one of the reasons why females are less likely to consider a career in tech is that they don’t have enough information about what working in tech entails.
To help provide this information and present tech as a viable career option, players in the tech industry should partner with schools to develop modules that can be used to teach students about careers in tech.
The aim of such partnership is to show students, both male and female, that technology is an interesting career option that plays a huge role in shaping the future of the world.
Considering the desire to make the world better is one of the major reasons for choosing a career among females, showcasing technology as a tool for positive change will inspire more females to go into tech careers.
What’s more, this partnership between players in the tech industry and schools should start at a much earlier age, before students are required to choose their A-level subjects.
Increased Access to Tech Careers
In addition to educating students and creating awareness about careers in the tech industry, effort should also be taken to make careers in the tech industry feel within the reach of students.
Players in the industry can once again partner with colleges and universities to provide alternative entry routes to tech jobs.
These include providing attachments and apprenticeships to students from partner universities, direct hires from college, and so on.
Increased Visibility of Female Role Models in the Industry
The best way to get females interested in tech careers is to show them that tech is not a male dominated field, and the most-effective way of doing this is by increasing the number of visible female role models in the industry.
Fortunately, women are increasingly holding the top and highly visible positions in big tech companies. Some high profile women in tech include:
- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: Being the COO of one of the leading tech companies, Sandberg is one of the most renowned women in tech. Sandberg has also served as Vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and has appeared in the Time’s 100 Most Influential People list. Sandberg has done a lot in encouraging females to join the tech industry and in making tech a more comfortable space for women. She has authored a book titled “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” which talks about some of the challenges facing women in the professional world.
- YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki: Yes, the CEO of the world’s largest video sharing platform is a woman. Susan has also served as Google’s Senior Vice President of Advertising and Commerce. She was head of Google Video when she proposed that Google should acquire YouTube, which was a small startup at the time. After her proposal was approved, she oversaw the $1.65 billion acquisition, before going on to be appointed YouTube CEO several years later. Like the Facebook COO, Wojcicki has also appeared in the Time’s 100 Most Influential People list.
- IBM CEO Ginni Rometty: Not only is she CEO, she also serves as the company’s Chairman and President. She has held the position of IBM CEO from 2012 to date. Rometty has appeared in Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women In Business for more than 10 consecutive years, and has also made it to the Forbes Magazine World’s 100 Most Powerful People list.
- Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer: Marissa was the CEO of Yahoo since 2012 up until it was bought by Verizon in 2017. Before joining Yahoo, she also held an executive role at Google. Like the other female role models mentioned above, Marissa has appeared both in the Fortune Magazine list of the Most Powerful Businesswomen and the Time’s 100 Most Influential People List.
- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman: Whitman served as the CEO of HP from 2011 – 2017. She has also held other high profile positions in the tech industry, including serving as president and CEO of eBay for 10 years. She has also appeared in the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list.
While the women named above are some of those acting as role models for females who consider joining the tech industry, more effort should be taken to promote other women holding high profile positions in the tech industry to make them more visible and show that women can thrive in tech careers as much as men.
More Should Be Done Too Help Women in the Industry Reach Their Full Potential
We saw that there is huge inequality against women who are already working in the tech industry.
They are paid less than their male counterparts, they are passed over for promotions, they are pushed to non-technical roles, and so on.
Such factors have contributed to keeping women away from tech.
Why bother majoring in software engineering if you will end up being a project manager anyway?
If more women are to join the tech industry, tech companies need to do more to create a level playing field for women.
Ditch the Damaging Dialogues
If you work in the tech industry, you have probably heard someone say something like this to a woman: “For a woman, you are really skilled at this,” or “You are too beautiful for an engineer.”
On the surface, these statements look like compliments.
Even those who say them probably do not mean any harm.
They are simply giving a compliment. Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless comments help reinforce the stereotype that the tech industry is a man’s world.
For instance, by telling a woman that she’s really skilled at something, it shows that you believe that men are generally better at the said task.
Which means that if you had to choose between a man and a woman to perform the task, you would probably choose the man.
See the bias? For this to stop, people (both male and female) in the tech industry have to learn to ditch such seemingly benign comments that nevertheless perpetuate the stereotype that tech is a male dominated field.
The numbers above make it clear that despite all the progress that has been made in the last couple of decades, the tech industry is still a “boys only” club.
Women are still underrepresented in the industry, and there is still a lot of inequality against women.
Still, there are some steps that can be taken to remedy this, including educating students about tech and its role in shaping the world, increasing access to tech careers, increasing visibility of female role models in the industry, leveling the playing field for women to enable them achieve their full potential, and ditching damaging dialogues that perpetuate the stereotype that tech is a man’s world.