Despite the fact that there’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about working toward closing the gender gap in tech, the industry is still saturated with men, particularly at the executive level. Tech giants in Silicon Valley are not making much progress when it comes to equality in the workplace, with just 25% of senior management positions held by women and a mere 15% of C-suite roles.
Many people are still unaware of the challenges women face when they choose to work in a male-dominated industry. Men are much more likely to think that women have equal opportunities in the workplace, with 66% of men and just 30% of women feeling that the tech industry is equal.
Some people argue that the gender gap is a natural reflection of women’s interests, but this argument doesn’t hold water when you look at the facts—girls are just as interested in STEM subjects as boys when they are young, but different factors like stereotypes and lack of support often make them lose interest. No, it’s not that women aren’t interested in tech—they just have to fight that much harder to be successful, since the deck is stacked against them.
Women in the tech industry deserve respect—they have a lot to offer the industry, but face many more challenges on an everyday basis. Here are four things you need to understand about women working in technology.
1. Women think and respond different than men.
The tech industry is often portrayed as logical and almost cold—numbers and algorithms-based. The female personality is often more empathetic, caring, and naturally geared to confront problems in different ways than men. Women can often improve communication in the tech workplace and make great leaders. Many women have high levels of emotional intelligence, and their empathy and interpersonal skills can help improve teamwork, collaboration, and resolve conflicts.
2. Women are underrepresented and paid less in business.
If you think that the wage gap is a thing of the past, think again. When it comes to business specialist occupations, women make just 66% of what men do on average. Not only are women paid less, but some men in leadership positions consciously or unconsciously do not allow women who report to them to rise up and thrive in business and opportunity. This is despite research that shows gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform, and increasing the numbers of women in executive positions helps to create a more welcoming environment for female employees.
3. Women deal with unconscious bias and prejudices, especially from men.
Culturally, women have to deal with unconscious bias on an everyday basis. Concepts of masculinity in culture still have an influence on whether or not men encourage women to take equal roles in the workplace. Our culture attempts to socialize men and women to fulfill different roles from the time we are born. Those attitudes are changing slowly, but the cultural biases run deep and are hard to overcome because we absorb them unconsciously.
Women face challenges in the tech industry related to these biases, especially when trying to lead and excel in workplace. Some of their male colleagues might feel threatened and refuse to offer support of encouragement. Counselors have identified trends in cultural bias, and noted how prejudices affect opportunities for women and minorities.
4. Women face daily power struggles, sexism, and inequality issues.
It’s not easy working in industry dominated by men, many of whom lack compassion and real empathy. Women deal with sexist comments and power issues on a regular basis, which causes conflict, discomfort, and stress. Inappropriate comments and questions, having their ideas overlooked, and feeling like there’s no one on their side at work can cause women to leave the tech industry when sexism becomes too much to bear.
How We Can Make Positive Change
Change in the tech industry starts with awareness, empathy, and respect. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but it is important for men to be aware that a problem still exists and that they have a part in changing these toxic cultural forces.
Women struggle daily in the tech industry, but many persevere because they are passionate about the work and want to make a difference. Companies and individuals can help support these strong and skilled women by encouraging their growth, listening to their ideas, and thinking about how their words might be interpreted before they speak. Let’s welcome women and ditch the outdated bias of the tech industry.