Addressing the Gender Gap in Technology
The Statistics on Women in Tech
Technology is a male-dominated industry, and the statistics surrounding women in tech reveal a lot. A PWC report suggests that the gender gap in technology starts at school and continues through every stage of a girl’s life. For example, only 27% of female surveyed students say they would consider a career in technology. In contrast, 61% of males say it is their first choice.
Where Does the Gender Gap in Technology Stem From?
Why are females generally not considering a tech career? The PWC survey finds that over a quarter of female students say they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male-dominated.
The stereotype of ‘boys being better at Science and Maths’ is ingrained in many girls from a young age. At school, boys were encouraged to do well in Maths and Science. In contrast, girls are encouraged to do well in subjects such as English and Art. The school system isn’t entirely at fault, but rather the stereotypes around what is considered a female and male job.
Consequently, a lack of interest in learning about STEM means that a tech career is impossible when it is time to think about their job.
The Media Stereotypes
The lack of women entering tech careers is not just a problem that stems from school but also pop culture. Media stereotypes greatly discourage young female students from pursuing STEM-related subjects. For instance, the female characters in The Big Bang Theory, where female scientists are presented as weird outcasts. In comparison, the arty girl is the only desirable female character. Pop culture representations may seem unlikely to discourage females from entering STEM careers. However, we must not forget how influential the media is at a young age.
However, if you successfully break through these cultural norms and pursue STEM subjects at University, there are still hurdles. In her article, Pooja Sankar talks about the intense isolation she experienced throughout her college years: “I spent most of my evenings alone in the computer lab, struggling in isolation to complete my coursework and watching with envy as my male classmates collaborated amongst themselves to master the complicated course material collectively.”
If you make it through your degree and are now entering the workforce, the challenges don’t stop there. However, according to June Sugiyama, “most women don’t experience obvious forms of discrimination or sexism” in the workforce. Instead, they face an undercurrent of condescension that leads to a feeling of isolation. According to the Harvard Business Review, this causes 52% of women eventually leave STEM careers.
Code First Girls’ Anna Brailsford discusses this and explains how the industry needs to step up. In the tech industry, women continue to face an uphill battle. For instance, accessing the training required to develop in their career, to establishing oneself in a male-working environment, to managing workloads around care commitments,” said Brailsford.
How can we actively improve? Brailsford commented, “Business leaders must take action and create an inclusive and progressive work environment in which upskilling and mentorship are accessible through partnerships, enabling women to take the plunge and develop themselves.
What Does the Future Hold for Women in Tech?
However, it is not all doom and gloom. As a society, we are becoming much more accepting, tolerant and encouraging of women in STEM. In recent years, there has been an ‘increase in women entering high levels in technology roles. Furthermore, there’s more encouragement for women to enter STEM careers by universities and schools. Society is more progressive and savvy in shutting down stereotypes and influence from the media. Therefore, now is the time to shine a light on female role models in tech.
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