The state of women in tech is a conversation that has permeated the tech world for years now, but has proved to be elusive for most leaders in technology. Women make up 56% of the professional workforce, but only a quarter of employees in technical occupations (Black and Latina women make up an even smaller percentage of that number, 3% and 1% respectively). With every passing year, stats come in depicting everything from high turn over rates to gender bias in the workplace, the numbers painting a clear picture: It’s hard being a woman in tech. The workplace should not be so hard for women. A lot of women in tech believe this too, and it is this very belief that is pushing them to carve out a place for themselves.
In the 1980s, women made up a sizable portion of computer science degree holders and tech employees. This number has steadily declined since reaching its peak in 1991, but girls have always shown and continue to show interest in tech. Girls Who Code, an educational nonprofit, reports that 74% of young girls show an interest in STEM, but that number is hardly representative of the realities of the women actually in tech today. The few women that do make it to the tech workforce usually meet gender bias, lack of mentors and other female role models in the field, unequal pay, and sparse growth opportunities compared to their male counterparts (The Future Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers, ISACA, 2017).
Still, women refuse to be bystanders and are making places for themselves that foster learning, mentorship, and transparency. A significant player is Girls who Code, which aims to increase coding accessibility for girls by bringing programs to schools, community centers, and libraries across the country. The Anita Borg Institute, an organization that grew out of a need to help women network, be recognized, and hone their technical abilities, now reaches 38,000 women worldwide. It was also Susan Fowler, a software engineer at Uber, that inspired other women in the industry to come forward with their own experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace after she penned her very own in a detailed blog post, spearheading an investigation that exposed a troubling work culture that included racial discrimination, bullying, and various instances of unprofessional behavior.
We often stay that tech is the future. The creators of these technologies have already changed the nature of our world drastically, but what kind of world are we creating that doesn’t include women and other minorities? Women need more systematic advocacy but until then, we need to amplify and support the women who continue to demand better workplaces and spaces not only for themselves, but the girls that come after them.