The gender gap in technology continues to persist in terms of overall participation, pay, and career advancement. Research is still being done to prove how and why the gender gap is wider in the tech sector than the overall U.S. economy, and some nonprofits and corporations are trying to make an impact closing the divide.
The most recent numbers show that women comprise 46.8 percent of the U.S. workforce. However, according to research by Statista, this does not represent the trends at most major tech companies.
As it comes to the overall workforce of eight leading tech corporations, Microsoft had the lowest number of women at 26 percent, while Netflix had the highest at 43 percent. These percentages are much lower as it comes to technical roles within these companies.
However, the organization also found that leadership positions for women in tech are within the same range as the rest of the U.S. economy.
See the chart below.
You will find more infographics at Statista
The Pay Gap
In the U.S., the pay gap in tech is at its worst in Silicon Valley and its adjoining areas. According to Statista, the gap was only at 1 percent in New Orleans and Indianapolis, and in Kansas City, MO, women comprised 102 percent of their male counterparts’ salary.
Meanwhile in San Jose the gap was at 17 percent, San Francisco at 18 percent, and 22 percent in Fremont.
According to a recent survey by Harvey Nash USA, 51 percent of women find reward in working in technology when in 2016, only 35 percent responded this way. However, only 30 percent of women believe their companies pay men and women equally, while 68 percent of men also responded the same. What’s more, these proportions were similar across all salary levels.
A study by Honeypot looked at multiple factors including pay gap, advancement opportunities and participation compared to the overall job market to rank the 41 countries in the OECD and EU. In the top 10 for pay equality were all European countries save for one — South Korea. The United States ranked 34th.
Breaking Down Early Societal Barriers
Every year, reports show the disparity of men and women in technical roles so some researchers have been looking at the core sources leading to this trend. The Director of Research and Senior Research Scientist for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Catherine Ashcraft has spent over a decade documenting and trying to grow the role of women in technology.
In an interview published by Forbes, she attributes the setback to societal bias that starts very early with girls in elementary school and later with young women in secondary school.
The overall assumption over time has been that girls intuitively are not as drawn to STEM. Research has shown, however, that this aversion is not intuitive but rather has been persistently curated for girls.
While it is absolutely true for some individuals, this generality can work to the disadvantage of girls who otherwise would be interested in STEM and thus stymie their aspirations.
This deep-seated belief has worked its way into elementary and secondary education curricula as well as teaching styles. While more boys are called on to solve problems, the girls are tasked with taking notes.
By giving the girls a less hands-on approach, they lose their interest and connection with applying these principles outside of the classroom. As they get into college, entry-level courses in computer science still often require prerequisites for prior experience that if a young women had wanted to explore STEM subjects, would still be unable to do so.
Similarly, a survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute showed that girls become interested in STEM at age 11 but lose an interest at 15. Attributing factors include lacking female mentorship, fewer opportunities for practical, hands-on application of STEM subjects, and the gender inequality of the tech workforce.
Why does it matter that there is a gender disparity of participation and pay in the tech industry? Because tech jobs are proliferating and will continue to grow as technology continues to hold a pervasive presence in human life.
Also, because tech jobs are good jobs. In 2016, tech workers received an average salary of $108,900 compared to the national average of $53,040.
That’s why some organizations, and even some tech companies are trying to make an impact in breaking down any systematic barriers that prevent women from the same opportunities afforded to men in the tech industry.
For instance, there is the issue of work/life balance that seems to affect women more so than men. In the Harvey Nash survey, 44 percent of men and 48 percent of women believe their family responsibilities threaten to slow their career growth.
However, 57 percent of women respondents said that having a family equates to lost advancement opportunities or equal pay, while only 28 percent of men responded the same. While work/life balance is undoubtedly a major issue for the workplace, some organizations are pushing to make it a familial issue rather than a woman issue.
Leslie Vickrey, a co-founder of ARA, a non-profit focused on enhancing women in technology roles, said “Companies need to support both men and women in their commitments outside of the office, whether it’s caring for an aging parent, paternal leave, or something else entirely.”
Companies like Salesforce and Intuit are making strides to close the gender gap in terms or pay, participation and advancement. Salesforce ordered an internal review of over 17,000 employees and spent an extra $3 million on payroll closing the gender pay gap that existed.
Intuit has consciously invested in the recruitment and retention of women while also encouraging leadership development which has resulted in 27 percent of its technical positions being filled by women, compared to the 15 percent industry average.
With more organizations supporting and advocating for the advancement of women in technology, more women may continue to find success in the field. Time will tell.