Digital Strategy Digital Technologies Technology and Innovation

Women in tech: a question of (in)equality

Why not listening to good music while reading? My inspiration for this article about women in tech is Run the World – Beyoncé. Play it now!

Women in tech - Author: Julie Compagny

Women in tech – Author: Julie Compagny

 

In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg writes:

The promise of equality is not the same as true equality

 

These words illustrate perfectly the reality of the tech industry. New technologies are omnipresent today and everybody is impacted by it in a way or another. Forecasts are positive when it comes to jobs and opportunities for all, hoping for a more equal world. Yet, there is one thing you should know: gender inequality is still clearly strong in the tech industry.

 

WOMEN IN TECH: HISTORY AS A PROOF

 

Technology, computing, digital… all that we know today was not exclusively created by men. Many women actively contributed to it and they should be thanked for their work. Let’s review some of them!

 

Ada Lovelace – (1815-1852)

Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace is the inventor of the first algorithm to be applied by a machine. For that, she has been given the nickname “first computer programmer”. She also brought out important questions regarding society considering technology to a collaborative tool. Impressive for the time!

 

Kay McNulty, Betty Jenning, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman – 1946

Called the ENIAC 6, these six women programmed one of the first computers in History, the ENIAC. An interesting thing to know is that some of them did not receive any recognition for their work during their lifetimes. Also, many people and especially historians were persuaded that they were only “refrigerator ladies”.  It means that, for them, their job was only to refresh the machines while they were, in fact, creating something big.

 

Grace Hopper – (1906-1992)

This woman created the first computing language called COBOL. For her work, she received the award of Computer Science Man of the Year by the Data Processing Management Association in 1969. Great for a woman! Later, in 1991, she was given the National Medal of Technology which constitutes a high honour in the USA for people working in the tech industry.

 

Radia Perlman – (1951-)

 Have you heard about the Spanning Tree Protocol? Well, Radia Perlman does! She conceived the algorithm behind it, consisting of the “basic traffic rules” of the Internet we know today. She is named “The Mother of the Internet”.

 

 

WOMEN IN TECH: A SYMBOL OF GENDER INEQUALITY

 

Women making History was unfortunately not enough to have gender equality in the tech industry. Many reports have been published the last 10 years to illustrate it, showing that the tendency continues to be the same. Here are four figures to help you measure it:

1. Syntec Numérique realized a study in which is highlighted the fact that in 2016, only 33% of total employees in the digital industry in France were women. Among them, only 16% had jobs such as developers. Others were working in human resources, communication or administration for example.

2. In the USA, the National Center for Women Information Technology released a report in 2016 showing that only 25% of total computing jobs are held by women. This situation is even more concerning for Asian women who represent only 5% out of the 25%, African American women (3%) and Latina women (1%). And the evolution from year to year is not positive…

Percentage of computing occupations held by women - Author: Julie Compagny

Percentage of computing occupations held by women – Author: Julie Compagny

3. The same report proved that 41% of all women employed in the high-tech industry quit in 2015. This is huge compared to men: only 17% of them did it. This report allows an understanding that the main reason why women left their job has nothing to do with family concerns. Indeed, they perceived no possibility of evolution and development in the companies they were working in, leading them to change job.

4. In 2017, 30% of all Google employees worldwide were women and, actually, it has been the case since 2014. Three female employees took the company to the court in 2017 because they were less paid than men. It seems that Google still has a lot to learn!

Distribution of Google employees worldwide from 2014 to 2018, by gender - Author: Julie Compagny

Distribution of Google employees worldwide from 2014 to 2018, by gender – Author: Julie Compagny

 

WOMEN IN TECH: LET’S BE POSITIVE

 

The benefits of gender equality

 

Of course, it exists many benefits for gender equality in the tech industry. Two insights are very interesting to look at though and we will focus on them.

The first one is that with gender equality in tech, we could take advantage of the competencies, ideas and solutions that 50% of the population could bring. Image what we could have had today in terms of new technologies if we included a lot more women earlier!

The second one is that over 1.4 million computing job will be open by 2020 in the USA. Nonetheless, with the current computing grads of the country, only 30% of those jobs would be taken. It is then a huge opportunity for women who are totally needed!

 

How to encourage gender equality?

 

Here again, there are many ways to encourage gender equality. The most logical solutions are very often the ones we do not think about.

Regarding companies, simplifying job descriptions and being honest about the must-haves is a good solution to have more women applying. A fact is that a woman will apply to a job if 100% of the criteria meet who she is whereas a man will apply to the same job if only 60% of the criteria meet who he is. Making job descriptions easier is then a source of opportunity for women. Companies can also promote inclusion and diversity and make it a real priority for all employees, men and women. Encourage its female employees to develop their competencies and reach higher levels is necessary and will favour gender equality.

Other solutions exist and you should try them: find a mentor to help you, integrate an association or a digital community, have a role model to project yourself and above all, believe in yourself and do not forget that yes, it is possible! If others succeeded, why won’t you?

 

Gender inequality in tech can be challenged and it is our responsibility, to all of us, to make things change.

 

In her book, Sheryl Sandberg also writes:

We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change

I really hope that these words will be meaningful to you and that after having read this article, you will actively fight for gender equality in the tech industry.

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Julie Compagny