Tag Archives: diversity

Lack of women in tech getting worse, not better

Boardroom

It’s a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in tech workplaces, but despite industry initiatives to change this, representation is actually getting worse.

Worryingly, the number of all-male boards is on the rise, according to SvB’s “Startup Outlook” report, which suggests companies’ focus on diversity initiatives may be mere lip service:

For all the work being done to change this ratio in the U.S., this year’s survey respondents report there is no progress in the aggregate.

The bank surveyed 941 startups and found that 70% didn’t have a single female board member in 2017. This is up from an already unimpressive 66% last year.

Source: SvB Startup Outlook

Similarly, more than half of firms, 54%, reporting no female executives, up from 46% in 2016 to 54% in 2017.

This isn’t just a diversity issue, but a financial one too, as research has found that more diverse boards actually perform better than their more homogenous counterparts. A Grant Thornton study found that UK, US and India firms with at least one woman on board beat male-only boards by £430bn in 2014.

Grant Thornton’s Francesca Lagerberg compared diversity to a shift towards renewables when presenting the study:

We know it’s the right thing to do – both in terms of fairness and for sustainable future growth – but collectively society is dragging its heels.

One quarter of firms surveyed state they have “programs in place” to further diversity. Whether this will be enough to make a change, however, remains to be seen.

Why gender diversity isn’t enough in tech

Photo:Flickr/Michigantechcoe

Diversity in tech usually focuses on gender equality, but to be truly inclusive, the industry’s efforts can’t stop there. 

Lola Odelola, founder of the Black Girl.Tech community, talked to Project Ada about why looking at gender is not enough:

Race and gender are not separate. I am both black and a woman and there aren’t days where I can choose to be one over the other.

Intersectionality is the concept that different identity categories like race, gender, sexuality or class are interrelated, not layers that can be peeled away one by one and looked at separately.

Colorless diversity

Silicon Valley giants have been racing each other recently to lead diversity campaigns and release workforce diversity figures, but critics say tech diversity focuses on just one identity. Slack engineer Erica Baker coined the term “colorless diversity” in a Medium post, pointing out that the Grace Hopper conference for women in tech had no black women at all as headline speakers – but managed to make room for two white men.

Lola agrees it’s important to be more specific about diversity. When the conversation is largely about gender, she says, it “can only really go so far”.

“The conversation is led by people who don’t have to think about race. In that sense, they’re privileged and when you’re privileged, it’s very easy to miss the effects of your privilege on others,” she says.

Black Girl.Tech is a community looking to take that conversation further. Describing itself as “a space for black girls and women to explore and learn”, BGT is now nearing its second birthday. Lola, who taught herself to code after attending a bootcamp, started it to address what she discovered when she began looking for a job in tech:

I heard the word ‘diversity’ being used a lot, however black women were missing from the conversation and from the teams I was seeing.

Black women entering the tech industry face specific challenges, according to Lola. Finding a job is the first hurdle. She has also experienced microaggressions in the workplace, as well as getting treated differently from other employees.

Better hiring practices

“People’s implicit bias comes into play a lot,” she says.

“The difficulty is knowing if this is due to racial bias, gender bias, being a junior or all three.”

To combat this, Lola wants to see tech companies improving their hiring practices. Introducing practices like blind hiring has proved effective to improve diversity in tech. Lola adds that being intentional about diverse hiring is important, to avoid racist undertones about applicants with minority backgrounds lowering standards:

Many people say they ‘hire the best person for the job’, but that implies that by actively seeking out black women or people from other minorities the bar is somehow being lowered, which implies that those people are not as qualified or intelligent.

Is blind hiring the solution to tech’s diversity problem?

Source: Flickr

Researchers have found a great way to multiply female interviewees for tech roles tenfold in one fell swoop: just keep their gender a secret. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)

Tech recruiter Speak With A Geek did an experiment with blind hiring, and got some striking results.

Blind job auditions mean any identifying details – such as the candidate’s gender – are stripped away, leaving employers to make their decision on qualifications alone, rather than a snap judgment based on implicit bias.

SWAG put forward 5,000 candidates to employers, in two different ways. The traditional applications, with names, backgrounds and genders included led to recruiters selecting just five per cent female interviewees.

What about the blind audition? You’ve probably guessed it.

When SWAG resubmitted the applications without any identifying details, the percentage of women selected jumped by a factor of ten.

With this method, over half, or 54%, of interviewees for tech roles were women.

SWAG isn’t the only organisation putting forward blind hiring as a way of increasing the stubborn lack of diversity in tech. Recruiters Gapjumpers actively help companies work with blind hiring, removing names and backgrounds from applications, and say:

While many believe the lack of women in technology companies is due to low application numbers, we find that women are taking blind auditions at a rate comparable to their representation in the US general population.

This bias is not a new phenomenon. Several past studies have shown both ethnic and gender bias, as recruiters routinely pass up job applications from qualified women, or applicants with foreign-sounding names.

Both anonymised applications and blind hiring have really become buzzwords in the last couple of years, with more and more tech companies turning to it in an attempt to get better at hiring by ability, rather than background.

And the figures show they need some help. SWAG, who keep a detailed tally of gender and ethnic diversity within US tech roles at major tech companies, say:

Diversity promotes innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and allows your company to remain competitive.

It seems tech firms struggling to improve diversity could benefit from this simple hiring trick. As SWAG suggests on their website: “Your user base is diverse, shouldn’t your tech team be?”

Women make up just 10% of the cybersecurity workforce

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Cybersecurity is booming, but women (still) make up just 10% of the cybersecurity workforce.

Indeed, despite the industry facing a massive skills shortage, depressingly little is changing. That 1 in 10 figure is unchanged over the past three years, new figures from the Global Information Security Workforce Study by (ISC)² show.

With less than one in four roles filled by women, the tech industry as a whole remains male-dominated – but this report shows certain sectors are falling even further behind.

The CREST report “Closing the Gender Gap in Cybersecurity” explores barriers to a more diverse workforce, and suggests that women are currently shying away from the cyber industry:

There are very few female applicants to the industry, thus leading workshop attendees to conclude that the marketing and perception of the industry is the main problem.

The cybersecurity industry is growing explosively, as hacking becomes a bigger topic, both in newspaper headlines, company budgets and government initiatives.

Recruiters are clamouring for new people, but according to the CREST report, the number of female applicants in the field is “incredibly” low.

The main reasons for this dearth? Cybersecurity professionals themselves suggest misperceptions of the industry and what skills are required are a big barrier.

“The marketing of the cybersecurity industry needs a lot of further consideration, particularly relating to ensuring its messaging is gender-neutral and thus attracting both sexes,” states the CREST report.

The report also emphasizes the importance of earlier initiatives to encourage girls to take STEM subjects:

Influencing children early in their education is a key to encouraging more girls into STEM.

UK has one of the world’s largest gender gaps in science

map of europe gender gap in science education

The UK is failing to give British girls adequate education to compete against their male counterparts in science, according to new research.

A new OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report, which measures the performance of 15-year-olds, shows that the UK has one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

The gap between UK girls’ and boys’ results in science tests is 13 – with boys scoring a mean of 521 and compared to girls’ 508. This is compared with an average gap of just one across the 67 countries that took part in the tests.

The UK falls into the bottom five countries that took part in the Pisa tests – alongside Costa Rica and just above Colombia.

Where boys beat girls by the most

worst countries for gender gap in science education

In some countries, girls’ science results were higher than their male counterparts, providing hope for increased gender equality.

Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates were at the top of the rankings – with a score difference of 43, 35 and 28 respectively. In Jordan, where girls beat boys by the highest margin, boys scored an average of 388 in Jordan. Girls, however, achieved 430.

Where girls beat boys by the most

best countries for gender gap in science education

Several countries achieved gender neutral results, where boys and girls scored similarly.

Girls beat boys by a mean of one in Macau, Uruguay, Israel, Singapore and Germany. Czech Republic, Chinese Taipei, Tunisia and Vietnam were similarly close, with boys performing slightly better than girls – by a single point.

“Not determined by innate differences in ability”

The results have raised concerns among experts that the education system is failing to provide girls with the training and support needed for future careers in science and technology industries.

Pisa has found that, in general, girls have higher expectations for their careers than boys; but on average, less than 5 per cent of girls contemplate pursuing a career in engineering and computing. In virtually all countries, the number of boys thinking of a career in computing or engineering exceeds the number of girls contemplating such a career.

In some of the top-performing countries and economies, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores than all boys in most other countries around the world.

The organisation said of the findings:

These results strongly suggest that gender gaps in school performance are not determined by innate differences in ability. A concerted effort by parents, teachers, policy makers and opinion leaders is needed if both boys and girls are to be able to realise their full potential and contribute to the economic growth and well-being of their societies.

Geek Girl’s Josefine Hedlund on getting women on the stage

pa-ggm

Josefine Hedlund has never been afraid to experiment. As a little girl, whenever the TV broke down in the Hedlund family home, her dad would ask her to fix it, by poking and prodding at buttons to see what they might do, even though the “more natural” option might’ve been for her father to do it himself, as she says, laughing.

I’ve never been afraid of technology. I’ve always been happy to learn things.

The 31 year-old Swede founded Geek Girl Meetup in London in order to spread that confidence to other women. The organisation, originally founded in Sweden, holds regular networking events for women working in tech, and promotes female role models in the industry.

Getting women onto the stage

Geek Girls London chapter’s third anniversary is coming up, and Josefine has met with me to talk about the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Only 2 in 10 tech employees are women, an issue that hits close to heart for her, as a feminist working in the tech industry. For the past four years, she’s been at digital agency AnalogFolk, and is now a senior producer.

Sitting in the agency’s painfully cool open-plan offices, we’re surrounded by men. This is hardly a new situation for Josefine Hedlund, who says that she’s regularly the only woman in meetings.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014. (Photo: Alessia D’Urso/ Flickr)

“I almost don’t want to say it, but I think it’s about confidence. Girls think they can’t do it,” she says.

Combating this lack of confidence is the driving force behind Geek Girl.

Thinking back to why Geek Girl was founded, she remembers going to tech conferences without a single female speaker.

“And we thought, ‘we know lots of great women in this industry. Where are they? Why aren’t they on the stage?’”

Starting at an early age

With Geek Girl, she encourages other women to get up on that stage. So does she happily get up and speak herself?

“I’m getting better. I don’t like to stand up and talk in front of people, but I force myself to do it. And it does get easier the more you do it.”

Josefine Hedlund Geek Girl by Sofia Villanueva

Josefine Hedlund (Photo: Sofia Villanueva for 1984 London)

A big part of tech’s diversity problem stems from women getting discouraged early on, she says, with young girls being made to take sewing rather than coding in school. Luckily for Josefine and her older sister, their parents were always encouraging.

“There was never anything strange about us being interested in technology, or sitting in front of the computer, playing Pacman or chatting on IRC,” she says.

“I think I’m quite confident as a person today. I’ve had a safe childhood, and was often in a leadership role, so I feel comfortable taking up space.”

Feminism “feels like a harsher word here”

Josefine has been living in London for almost five years. But she grew up in Sweden, where she says gender inequality is less of an issue.

“Everything is more divided in the UK than it is in Sweden. Even kids are divided, into girls’ and boys’ schools, and girls’ and boys’ sports.”

For Josefine, who likes to relax by playing football, this has caused some raised eyebrows amongst colleagues who were surprised she hadn’t grown up playing netball instead.

Calling herself a feminist feels different in the UK too, she says.

“It feels like a harsher word here. There still seems to be this vision of the ‘man-hating feminist’ cropping up.”

What makes a role model?

With Geek Girl, she certainly takes a more positive approach. It’s about promoting female role models. Josefine’s own role models are Heidi Harman, Geek Girl’s original founder, and Alice Bentinck, founder of several Silicon Roundabout start-ups.

And being a role model isn’t just about doing good.

“It’s also someone who’s good at talking about the mistakes they’ve made and the experience they’ve gained from making those mistakes.”

So has Josefine made any mistakes of her own? “Oh, tonnes!” she says, laughing.

It’s all about daring to experiment.

Cambridge and Oxford fail to attract female computer science students

cambridge university gender disparity

Less than one in five people enrolled on the UK’s top computer science programmes are female – and Oxford and Cambridge have fewer female computer science students than any other top university.

The technology industry is disproportionate from the educational level as it fails to attract females to enroll on its key courses, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveals.

The UK’s top ten computer science programmes are 84.55 per cent male – with the worst performing university having nine times as many men than women.

Gender balance on top computer science courses

Out of the UK’s best computer science courses, University College London has the most female students. Of its 355 students, 95 are female, accounting for just over one in four graduates.

The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford are the worst for gender representation in computer science, with 10 and 10.5 per cent female students respectively.

Featured image: The University of Cambridge, Richie

Women in tech: the best posts of 2014

2014

As the year draws to a close, we’ve gathered some of the year’s best posts on sexism, gender equality and diversity in the technology industry.

Some celebrate role models and advances that have been made, others point out glaring cases of sexism in the industry. So, from #gamergate to tech giants’ diversity figures, here’s how we’ll remember 2014.

Why aren’t there more women in mobile tech?

Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, wrote an article for CNN about the mobile technology industry. In it, she calls for more mobile women – saying that we need to make women in tech the norm, rather than the exception.

As we collectively strive to connect the next one billion users and stimulate the positive change that the mobile internet brings, we must ensure that women will be included in this upsurge.

 

Why female representation matters

In March, the Guardian‘s Aleks Krotoski told us why female representation matters.

Technology companies build products that help us make sense of the world. How can they do this without input from 52% of the world’s population?

The question in Krotoski’s subheading speaks for itself. The fact that girls achieve better grades that boys in GCSE and A level Maths and Computer Science, and yet drop out of the subjects to leave 82% men in higher education classes, begs belief.

In Defense of Women in Tech Groups

This article posted on Geek Feminism in March effectively mythbusts some common arguments against WIT groups. So next time someone tells you they aren’t necessary, point them in this direction. The author makes a clear case for why women in tech groups are essential, not least for networking and for finding role models.

Do you know how you go about combating stereotype threat for women? Logic dictates—and now a study shows—that female role models are essential. So, there it is: female-dominated classrooms, with female instructors, are an obvious win, for women learning technology concepts.

A Brightening Outlook?

On International Women’s Day, Forbes hosted an article talking about the “emerging opportunities” for women looking to develop in technology.

Leo King reported on several high-profile technology figures speaking at an event. While they warned that there is still a shocking lack of representation of women within the industry, they spoke of clear signs of improvement in the opportunities available.

They called for, among other things, an expansion of the opportunities out there for women in tech to advance their career – especially by focusing on education in developing countries.

It is in the interests of companies and governments to help women advance in the technology industry, [a vice president of Intel, Bernadette] Andrietti says: “Women offer a fresh perspective on product design, ways of working, risk-taking and many other aspects of business.”

 

No progress on inequality for 10 years

The Guardian‘s report in May highlighted just how far we’ve yet to go in securing a fair role for women in technology. The figures made for depressing reading.

The percentage of women taking the role has remained largely static at 14% since 2004, when the firm started gender analysis.

At the bottom, the article lists many organisations in the UK dedicated to helping recruit and retain more women in technology.

The Most Powerful Women in Tech in 2014

Forbes’ list on the most “powerful” women in tech gives us some role models within the industry.

The list is taken from a wider one of the world’s most powerful women in general – on this list, the highest from a tech company is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and the first female member of its board of directors.

In 2013, Sandberg released Lean In, a book encouraging women to materialise their professional goals by leaning into their ambitions.

Google’s Diversity Report

google diversity report representation gender technology

When Google published its diversity figures early this summer, a whole slew of tech giants followed suit, sparking a debate about the lack of gender and ethnic diversity in tech roles. The reports showed that barely 2 in 10 tech employees are women, and as Google put it themselves, getting these figures straight is an important first step to making a change.

We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity. And it is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.

It’s Not Just A Pipeline Problem

This post on TechCrunch, published in August, argued that getting women into technology industries was a “trapdoor problem” as much as a “pipeline problem”.

The trapdoor problem is one we can collectively work on without having to wait for a new generation to filter through; and the first step towards solving any problem is admitting that it exists.

Jon Evans said that it’s unacceptable that people “turn a blind eye” to the fact that so many women are dropping out of technology-based jobs once they’re in one. He cites a 2008 Harvard Business Review report, which found that “between ages 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in those subject matters are female … [but] 52% of this talent drops out”.

What it’s really like for women in tech

In September, Gwen Moran told a great story which she introduced by saying “it’s a pretty safe bet that no male CEOs could match this”.

In the piece, Heidi Roizen, cofounder and CEO of T/Maker, tells of how she was sexually assaulted by a company executive at a celebration dinner in San Francisco.

“One of the most responsive audiences has been men who have daughters who are entering the workforce,” Roizen says. “It would never occur to them that something like this would happen. When they hear these stories, it helps them be more aware and, when women come to them with these stories, to take them more seriously.”

Why Gamergaters piss me the f*** off

We know. We could make this entire list, or this entire site, about posts on the #gamergate controversy, but heck, who has the energy? However, Chris Kluwe’s open letter is an incensed tirade against gamergaters that actually made me laugh despite having thought that I never wanted to read about the topic again.

You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet.

When Women Stopped Coding

women computer science coding

This piece from NPR was published in October, but I’ll be honest: I didn’t get around to reading it until the other week. It’s a fascinating article that explores why the percentage of women in computer science dropped so sharply in the 1980s.

These early personal computers weren’t much more than toys. You could play pong or simple shooting games, maybe do some word processing. And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys. This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.

Women in tech earn less than men: Here’s one reason why

Fortune published some great data on the pay gap in Silicon Valley in November.

In it, they explore how women are – unsurprisingly – still paid significantly less than men to do the same job. However, on top of this, the report shows how women also ask for less than men at an interview stage. This is a significant issue in the mentality of people within the industry which needs addressing.

women technology sector curvery pay gap sexism gender split

Survey: Women ‘belittled, underappreciated and underpaid’ in tech industry

The Guardian’s survey of women’s experience of working in the tech sector was published in November and makes for some depressing reading: 73% of tech employees consider the industry sexist. 52% say women get paid less for the same job. But the reports of cultural sexism are among the most shocking.

The gender split was 90% male, 10% female. I was hit on by almost every man I met, and felt like a novelty to the point where I ate lunch in a room on my own to avoid repeated awkward conversations.

Why women are leaving the tech industry in droves

December saw Sue Gardner write an op-ed piece about the important issue of  women leaving the tech industry.

In it, she makes several points which are hard to describe as anything but common sense. Over time, she says, women are ground down by a perfect storm of hostility, demeaning attitudes and condescension. Women in tech are often subject to sexual harassment and have few female role models to look up to – why would the industry seem like a good place in which to work?

If you’re a tech executive, you want your available workforce to be as big and varied as possible. In that context a rational industry would shut down overt misogyny because in addition to being morally repugnant, it’s terrible for business. It would aim to provide the same things for female workers that it does for male ones: an enjoyable culture, competitive pay and challenging work.

 

Have you got any other ideas for great articles in 2014? Tweet us @ProjectAda_ and we’ll add them to the list!

Written by  Clara Guibourg and Ashley Kirk