Every year on the 8th of March we celebrate the women in our lives. We honor both their accomplishments and the struggles to achieve equality. In this article we will focus on women in tech and learn how the technology industry has come a long way in the past years.
Women in tech throughout history
Believe it or not, women used to dominate the computer industry at the very beginning, in the ’40s and ’50s. With men fighting in World War II, women took it upon themselves to help the war efforts by programming computers to decrypt enemy communications. About 8,000 women worked at Bletchley Park site for British cryptanalysis. Mavis Batey was the first to decrypt a message encrypted by the unbreakable Enigma machine.
The first programmers were here before the digital computer. They were a group of 80 women mathematicians working at the University of Pennsylvania during WWII. Six of them – Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum – were chosen to work in the classified ENIAC project, which was the world’s first all-electronic digital computer. The six women were the first generation of programmers and the ones who made ENIAC operational.
In 1968, Jean E. Sammet was the first woman to get a Ph.D. in computer science. In her career, she helped develop the first computer language while working at IBM.
During the next two decades, a few female computer engineers like Carla Meninsky and Carol Shaw joined the field as developers at Atari and Activision.
It was 1985 when Radia Perlman, known as the mother of the internet developed STP (the Spanning Tree Protocol) that enabled Ethernet to handle massive networks.
Women in tech nowadays
Now that I’ve paid my respects to the mothers and grandmothers of computer engineering, we should move a step closer and talk about current issues that women face in this field today.
In the mid-eighties, about 37% of computer science grads in the U.S. were women. Curiously enough, the numbers have progressively dropped as computers became more accessible, to an all-time low of only 17.6% in the academic year of 2010-2011.
The work force doesn’t look much different either, with a percentage of only 25% females, dropping from 38% in the ’70s.
In Silicon Valley, women make up for 30% to 40% of the total workforce in the most prominent technology companies. When taking a deeper look at the stats, we can see that women hold 35% to 50% of the non-tech jobs and only 10%-20% of the technology-related jobs.
However, things seem to be taking baby steps the right direction. About 55% of women working in this field believe there are more women in tech today than 5 years ago.
All the stats and surveys show that women have to face several barriers in this field. Let’s take a closer look at the most frequent obstacles and find solutions to overcome them.
Recruiting like a pro
Stanford researchers participated as silent observers in 84 recruiting sessions held at the university by 66 companies. Their findings show that all these companies have been challenging women right from the recruiting phase. Most of the people in the recruiting team were men. When women were present, they were usually in charge with presenting the company’s culture while their male colleagues covered the technical parts of the presentation.
Actually, only 22% of the recruiting sessions observed had women talking about technical aspects of the work. Even among the students participating, men asked more questions and took up most of the time during Q&A sessions. An interesting finding was that when women recruiters were present, women students got involved and asked questions 65% of the time, compared to 36% when recruiters were only men.
It is clear from data above that women are more comfortable to get involved when other women are present. So the solution is to also have women in your HR team.
Close the pay gap
According to the Hired report for 2018, in 63% of the cases, tech companies offer men higher starting salaries than they offer women. More than 50% of women know they were being paid less than men.
On the other hand, only 19% of male peers claimed to being paid lower than their women colleagues. A vast majority of women (84%) claim that their interest in working for a company declines if the company is known for offering differential pay.
So, offering equal starting packages is one first step. But for a real change, you need to go deeper and implement a fair and transparent pay system based on merits only.
Gender bias seems to be present in performance evaluations too, with women being less likely to be promoted. Analyzing 248 performance reviews, investigators found that 58% of men receive no criticism in their reviews, compared to only 13% of women. More than that, 71% of women receive negative feedback about their personality, compared to only 2% of men. As a consequence, women are being promoted less often than men, and for reasons that have less to do with their job performance.
If you want to make a difference, encourage a culture of cooperation and mentorship, based on peer-learning. The best way for your employees to learn and grow is by sharing their knowledge and providing objective but empathetic feedback to one another. This will help them grow personally and professionally, while also making them more united.
Also, offering a flexible schedule and other measures that would help balance professional work with personal life is a great incentive for attracting more women to your team.
Be a game changer
If tech giants still have a lot of work to do in order to achieve gender equality, there are companies that are already playing a different game.
At Hubgets, the numbers speak for themselves and we take great pride on what we have achieved:
- Compared to 30% industry average, 52% of the total number of Hubgets employees are women.
- Looking only at tech related jobs, 48.6% of our employees working in software engineering are women, compared to 25% industry average.
- At Hubgets, 50% of management positions are occupied by women, compared to an average of only 5% in the industry!
- And in comparison with 5% women startup owners on average, 50% of the Hubgets founders are women.
In our team, celebrating women in tech takes place every day, not just on March 8 🙂 Happy Women’s Day!