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Women in Tech: Why are Women Missing Out on Opportunities in STEM?

Simona Sandru
IT Projects Director

In many industries, including STEM, women are still being subjected to pay gaps and underpromotion compared to their male colleagues with similar or less experience. Women in tech hold only 20% of jobs in the industry and their success is usually attributed, unfortunately, to relationships and privilege. Why does the global economy’s 3rd largest contributor, at $7T and over 4.5 million jobs last year, have such a difficult time hiring women?

The Gender Imbalance Within the US Tech Industry

Women have been dealing with unfair treatment and discrimination at work for a long time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2018 only 18% out of the 57% of U.S. women who graduated college have a background in computer science. In entrepreneurship, the situation is even more alarming: just 8% of primary patent holders are women and only 2% of woman-run startups received VC funding.

Tech has played a major role in America’s economic growth, on track to add a forecasted 600,000 new jobs to the economy by 2026. Yet according to CW Jobs, women require 14 more years to gain access to the same positions, pay, and standards as men in IT. And, though the STEM field is attractive to many women in college, they still have to navigate gender imbalances, small pool of female role models, mentors, and recruiters for them; and workplace discrimination.

Underrepresentation of Women in Tech – Where to?

In the near future, women will see the emergence of new opportunities and business prospects in industries like electronics manufacturing, e-commerce, digital payments, and shared economy. According to McKinsey Global Institute, U.S. tech industry revenues will scale to $250 million by 2025 in US, making gender equality in tech even more important, as greater revenues simply increase the impact of gender imbalance.

For example, a study found that some search engines are six times more likely to show high paying executive jobs to males as compared with women. And, in the automotive industry, any voice recognition software seen not to react to female voices correlates to a lack of women on the design team for such software.

Tech influences more and more of our daily lives, which makes it so that these imbalances present greater and wider negative consequences in the lives of women, financially and occupationally.

women in tech - stem - equality

In 2018, only 24 female leaders appeared on the Fortune 500 CEOs list; it is 25% less than the previous year.

Within the tech industry, gender stereotypes place the most undue pressure on women, as tech is a widely male-associated job. As a result, men get more opportunities earlier, and at higher rates opportunities at higher rates, and their expertise is more valued.

Based on interviews with 1,000 young people and analyses of 80,000 posts on social media, women are attracted to the tech sector, even though their fear of not fitting in often stops them from pursuing careers there. While women are as ambitious and capable as their male counterparts, male objectification has hindered women from finding their place in many fields where men easily thrive. This mindset slows the development of key economic growth sectors in many countries by virtue of women being excluded from them: a logical circumstance of excluding substantial percentages of half a country’s population from employment, intentionally or not.

Equality as a Strategic Goal for Business Sector

Healthy workplace culture is inclusive, above all. Regardless of gender, race, color, sexual orientation, size, background, creed or other differences, employees should be treated with the same respect, presented with opportunities based on demonstrated capabilities and results, and promoted based on genuine meritocracy. Yet corporate managers are also responsible for promoting and including their workers based on both quantitative in addition to qualitative factors: since numbers account only for one criteria in the hiring and promoting of male professionals, they should serve a proportional function in female hiring and promotion as well. Egalitarian team environments, communication across hierarchies, and opportunities for development & growth are all practices that create workplace equality.

Google, for example, has a reputation for addressing internal social challenges systematically, allowing them to clamp down on bias revolving around women’s health. They implemented
a system that generated solutions to problems derived from women’s unmet health needs, from expectant mothers’ parking to longer paid maternity leave.

More Women in Tech Will Create Game-Changing Solutions for IT

Most people usually think of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Richard Branson as role models in technology. Yet according to a PwC study, only 22% of respondents can name any woman working in technology at any level. Print and online media outlets can lend a hand here: covering accomplishments by women in tech more widely and more often would help empower the next generation of women in tech to follow woman role models and encourage them to pursue careers in tech more widely.

Creating equal opportunities for women to work in tech will make positive change inevitable. Companies can make this happen in a few ways. First, they can champion and fund tech education in public school districts. Second, they can recruit secondary school- and college-age girls as interns. Third, they can create hiring pipelines that keep girls involved in their companies in ways that maintain their value to those companies and groom them for employment. Many companies have already started to create educational programs and promotion policies to increase hiring and retention of women, and/or have set quotas to make retention part of hiring. Many top companies have already chosen to implement such policies.

Discover more ways to accelerate change for a more equal treatment of women in tech!

Communication is the key to solving many issues at the start, and this one is no exception. Managers are pivotal in ensuring their team members are on the right career trajectory. A work environment where managers pay equal attention to opinions expressed by all employees is an ideal any employee can support. Only businesses who strive to achieve diversity and inclusion are able to maximize their opportunities.

 


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