(Warning: This is the occasional semi serious blog post. You have been warned.)
When I decided to return to blogging I took requests on what I should write about. My friend Joanna wanted me to cover the lack of women in technology. I actually spent time to think about this… I contemplated reading studies, papers, and articles about this subject but who wants an informed opinion over the straight from the gut reaction that I am known for.
Before I dive into this I want to state two things.
1) Growing up my experience that women are smarter than men academically. If you wanted to group the top 20 students in my high school I would say it was a 70-30 female split. I have no fear in admitting that most women I grew up with are vastly more intelligent than I am. (I can’t say as a whole, I’m just going by my experience in life. I’m still trying to hold on to the dream that I am smarter than 34.7% of the population.)
2) I think women can do anything a man can do. (Obviously except for peeing their names in the snow easily.) The argument I am going to hand handily lay out is going to be more about societal causes.
When you tackle the women in tech question I think you have to break things down by positions. I think there are plenty of women in marketing, financial, and other positions within a tech company. The two positions that people need to focus on are leadership and programmers/developers.
Every female that I knew growing up that was solid in STEM all went more towards a medical path than engineering. I can only think of one person that went into a computer related field. It’s not that women aren’t capable of performing in the programming realm; to me it is two simple reasons why you don’t see them at a higher rate.
1) Most computer programmers I know lean to a more antisocial type. They cut their jib not really in an academic environment but learning on their own locked away in the deep recesses of their room ripping apart and building new things. (You thought I was going to say basement didn’t you, that is only for WOW players and bloggers.) Very few women that I know want to function and learn like a typical programmer. I’m not saying that women can’t be anti-social and they are all these gossipy people that constantly need to be chatting.
When you look at how women sports are coached versus male sports it has been shown that a sense of community and communication leads to higher success with women’s team. Teaching concepts, building a team, and improving skills happen at a higher rate if women are coached this way. (Meanwhile guys just get yelled at and have chairs thrown at them.) I think that the typical programmer learning process and the loner type atmosphere aren’t appealing to most women. (Or probably most sane people.)
2) A lot of the guys that go into programming/development are guys that creep the every living shit out of women. When you look at the way the tech industry has treated women, the incidents of sexual harassment, and in general the deaf ears they have in regards to setting up a proper work environment why the hell would anyone want to go into that industry? Who wants to go work with a bunch of creepy assholes that are going to treat you like shit?
(It’s kind of a self perpetuating system, people that thrive in the atmosphere in point number one don’t know how to breed the proper atmosphere in point number two.)
I think this is rather simple. The best analogy I can give around this is when you look and inherited wealth and African Americans. Basically whites have had time to build up more wealth by a few generations, because of that African Americans and their communities have had to make up for lost generations in terms of wealth, education, and other factors. This applies to tech and the leadership within it. A lot of companies are founded and run by people that have had previous experience with startups and other tech companies. These primarily have been white males with that experience. They essentially have had a “generational” lead on women (and for that matter a lot of ethnic groups) where their experience keeps breeding positions and thus power. As more women founders and CEOs emerge they gain ground but just like African Americans chasing the wealth of whites the deck is stacked against them and unless an outside force modifies the conditions it is going to be nearly impossible to close that gap.
I have no idea. Personally I think the Founder solution is easier to deal with because you can do that with money and support. By creating start accelerators that focus on women and cultivating their idea, building their skill set, and getting them experience you can begin to start chipping away in the gap that is there. However with programming… I think a more communal approach to education would be key but I’m not sure how you do that or if that is even possible in the way we teach something that come consider an individual art form. It’s like applying very liberal arts teaching methods to something that is solidly STEM based.
Why do you think there is a lack of women in the tech industry?