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.
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.
Ada Lovelace Day, now in its eighth year, is a day to celebrate female role models. The London cabaret featured design engineer Yewande Akinola, science writer Kat Arney, planetary physicist Sheila Kanani and many more – and was hosted by comedian Helen Keen.
Sam and Clara liveblogged the event below, but you can also keep an eye on @ProjectAda_ and the event hashtag #ALD16.
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.
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.
Ada Lovelace Day on 11 October is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM, and shine a light on inspiring role models in an industry long dominated by men. As the date approaches, we caught up with founder Suw Charman-Anderson to learn how it came about.
She tells Project Ada she founded the day in 2009, “fed up” of going to tech conferences and seeing few women on the speaker lists – or even none.
“I knew loads of women in the industry, but so few of them seemed to get conference speaking slots,” she said.
Suw, who was working in the tech industry at the time, recalls the women in tech community online discussing the issue, in blogs, social media and comment sections:
“People would name women who they thought should be on stage, but that never seemed to move the dial.”
“No one else had that imagination”
It was this frustration that gave birth to the idea of a specific day for raising awareness of female tech role models, spearheaded by computing pioneer (and this website’s namesake) Ada Lovelace.
The 19th century mathematician and STEM trailblazer seems like a natural choice as a role model. Often described as the world’s first ever computer programmer, Lovelace is best known for her work on Charles Babbage’s mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine and was the first person to realise the machine’s potential, far beyond number-crunching, to create music and art:
“She envisioned computer science as we now understand it, and saw how useful a computer would be to future mathematicians and scientists,” said Suw, adding:
No one else at that time, in the mid-1800s, had that kind of imagination or foresight.
The stories that we tell about other women inform the stories we tell ourselves about our own capabilities and futures.
In 2009, thousands took part in the first ever Ada Lovelace Day by blogging about a woman they admire. Seven years on, the day has grown into a fully fledged science cabaret evening: Ada Lovelace Day Live in London.
This year, speakers include design engineer Yewande Akinola, planetary physicist Dr Sheila Kanani, science writer Dr Kat Arney, developer Jenny Duckett, mathematician Dr Sara Santos, computational biologist Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, and climate scientist Dr Anna Jones.
“Essential for girls to see”
“It’s an amazing opportunity to see the breadth of work that’s happening in the UK, something I think is often hidden away because the media are only interested in certainly types of STEM news stories,” said Suw.
The cabaret takes place in London, but Ada Lovelace Day events are being held worldwide. If you’re not close to one, Suw encourages women in STEM to celebrate simply by talking to their daughters, granddaughters or nieces:
It’s essential for girls to see that they have a future in STEM, and for women to see that they can progress in STEM careers all the way to the top.
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?”
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.
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.
The women in tech community in São Paulo is thriving, with events and meetups for ladies interested in networking, in entrepreneurship and in coding.
Project Ada has done a selection of upcoming events for women in tech who happen to be in São Paulo in the next few weeks:
Hacker Culture & Feminism
This workshop by MariaLab, a feminist hackerspace in São Paulo, will cover the ethics of hacker culture under a feminist point of view. The workshop will also cover tools and techniques for digital security and cryptography.
When: Sunday, 29th May Where: Deputado Emílio Carlos Avenue, 3641. Vila Nova Cachoeirinha, São Paulo – SP Cost: Free
When: every Saturday between 11th June and 6th August Where: FIAP Aclimação: Lins de Vasconcelos Avenue, 1222. Aclimação, São Paulo – SP Cost: R$ 160,00 [£30] Scholarship? Yes, there will be no charge for 10 selected attendees who can’t afford the investment.
Women TechMakers São Paulo
This meetup, in partnership with Google Developers Group São Paulo, is part of a series of events to support the development of women in technology. The event is not exclusively for women, but there will be more places for women to encourage female participation. RSVP will open on 31th May on the group’s Meetup page.
When: Wednesday, 15th June Where: Google Campus SP: Coronel Oscar Porto Street, 70. Paraíso, São Paulo – SP Cost: Free
Let’s understand UX (Vamos entender UX)
This workshop is for designers and developers interested in user experience design. The course will cover the practical aspects of improving user satisfaction through usability and accessibility by presenting useful tools and essential steps for projects focused on UX design.
When: Thursday, 16th June Where: Engenheiro José Sá Rocha Street, 173. Vila Mariana, São Paulo – SP. Cost: R$ 97 [£20]
More role models and flexibility. That’s the key to getting more women into tech careers, based on a fresh survey of over 1,500 women working in STEM.
The women were asked what the biggest career challenge was they faced as a woman working in a male-dominated environment.
Women make up just 24 per cent of the STEM workforce, according to US census data. And dismayingly, several fields are only becoming more unequal with time, not less. The proportion of female computer science undergrads in 2011 was less than half of what it was in the early eighties.
Women report a ‘pervasive lack of confidence in navigating a male-dominated workplace’ according to the survey.
Nearly two in three, 64 per cent, reported a lack of confidence is holding them back in their career.
And those in leadership positions struggle especially with this, as 19 per cent reported that the male domination of their work environment is holding them back, more than twice the average rate of respondents.
2. Wanted: Mentors and role models
The key to tackling the lack of confidence is clear based on this survey: Women need more female role models to look up to.
Over 60 per cent of those surveyed agreed that having more women on their team would be beneficial.
3. Who’s getting the promotions?
Are men more likely to get promotes? Nearly half of respondents aged 21-49 believed their male coworkers were more likely to get promoted over them.
Indeed, the lack of opportunities for advancement was listed as the biggest career hurdle among women surveyed.
4. Flexibility is key
Flexible work hours are the number one thing needed to get more women working in tech careers, according to this survey.
No less than 1 in 4 of those surveyed agreed that flexibility is the most helpful factor for getting more women into tech, over other factors like mentors and quotas.
What do you think would get more women into tech? Comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_!
Women are grossly underrepresented as speakers at tech conferences, and IP Expo Manchester, opening today in Manchester, is no exception, as a Project Ada analysis reveals it has just seven per cent female speakers.
The problem is a familiar one: women are missing not just from the industry, but on stage. Even when an event’s audience is more equally split between genders, among keynote speakers and panelists women can still be hard to find, and all-male panels still all too common.
At IP Expo Manchester, held 18-19 May, just three of the 43 speakers advertised on the website are women. A whole 92.5 per cent of the speakers are male.
In fact, there are more Davids among the event’s speakers than there are women, as we found that four of the promoted speakers are named David – and just three are women.
IP Expo Manchester’s organisers tell Project Ada they’d love to see more female keynote speakers and panelists:
“It is one of our main aims, that we remain focused on attracting the thought leaders in the field, irrespective of gender but would certainly like to see a bigger representation from the talented women in technology,” said a spokesperson for the event.
This isn’t just a problem for IP Expo. “Where are the women speakers?” is a question that’s been asked time and again. It’s a vicious circle, of course: with a lack of women in the industry leading to a lack of women on stage – damaging women’s career prospects.
But women are underrepresented even when taking into account their smaller numbers in STEM industries. And not all the blame can be laid at organisers’ feet: Women, it seems, are more likely to say no, when asked.
IP Expo Manchester’s spokesperson confirmed this has been a difficulty:
We’ve worked really hard to promote gender equality on our keynote programmes, however, despite approaching a huge selection of relevant, qualified female speakers it is really difficult to get commitment.
So is there a good way of solving the problem? One study suggests that an effective way of increasing female speakers is actually quite simple: make sure there is at least one woman organising the event.
It is widely known that women are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, both in the academic world and in the market place.
Some initiatives, from the private sector, independent institutions and universities, try to tackle the gender gap in the STEM industry by providing financial support for women who show a passion for the hard sciences.
Project Ada has selected seven funding opportunities that are or will be open soon for submissions in the UK and abroad. If you are a woman in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, you may be eligible to one of these scholarships and grants:
1. Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship is aimed to fund female students in the areas of computer science, computer engineering, informatics or a closely related technical ﬁeld. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the program awarded a € 7,000 award for the year.
Winners are awarded scholarships based on the strength of each candidate’s academic background, passion for increasing the involvement of women in computer science, and demonstrated leadership.
Award: a € 7,000 award for the year Requirements: to apply it is necessary to intend to be enrolled in or accepted as a full-time student in a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD program at a university in Europe, the Middle East or Africa. Application date: open in Autumn 2015 More details: http://www.google.com/anitaborg
2. Most promising female applicant (STEM courses)
This generous scholarship by Bournemouth University, of a £9,000 tuition fee waiver, will be awarded to the most promising UK female applicant applying for a full-time undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) course offered at BU.
If you are looking for an opportunity to study in the US, this might be a good one. Level up fellowship is targeted for individuals from low-income backgrounds who have shown a passion for technology and a strong commitment to build a career in tech.
To apply, the candidate has to be referred by one of the following institutions: YerUp, Women Who Code, Npower, Per Scholas and Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS).
Requirements: The program is for candidates accepted into Web Development Immersive (WDI) and User Design Experience Immersive (UXDI) courses in in New York City, San Francisco, or Washington DC. Next deadline: 29 April for WDI in New York. 29 April for UXDI in NYC, SF and DC. More details: https://generalassemb.ly/opportunity-fund/fellowships/level-up
4. Top entrepreneurship program with Draper University
The programme offers a seven-week Silicon Valley live-in entrepreneurship program for entrepreneurs aged 18-28 from all over the world.
The university has created more than 100 startups that have raised more than US$ 10 million, funded by investors including Marc Andreessen, Tim Draper, and Marc Benioff.
Award: The university provides one US$ 5.000 scholarship for women in STEM and one full scholarship for Women Who Code members. Requirements: be an entrepreneur aged 18-28. Application date: the second round for applications closes 1 May. More details: http://draperuniversity.com
5. Delphix Technology Scholarship for Women
Delphix, the software company based in Palo Alto, California (US), is hosting a coding competition to get more women inside the company. The initiative is to help company to create a more diverse team. As the company says:
“At Delphix we believe that the best products are built by a diverse team of great engineers.”
Award: the winner receives $5,000 to be used toward tuition fee Requirements: full-time college students pursuing a technical degree like computer science, mathematics, information technology, applied mathematics, electrical engineering etc in the US. Application date: open from June 1, 2015 until November 15, 2015. Winner will be announced on December 11, 2015. More details: http://scholarship.delphix.com
6. Conference: Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
Undergraduate, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from around the world are encouraged to apply.
Award: The GHC Scholarship Grants for students typically cover all expenses for attending the conferencing including conference registration, meals, lodging, and fixed amount of travel reimbursement funds. Application date: close on Wednesday, April 15th More details: http://anitaborg.org/awards-grants/ghc-scholarship-grants/
7. The Anita Borg Systers Pass-It-On (PIO) Awards
This award provides small grants for women over 18. According to the organisation, the awards “honour Anita Borg’s desire to create a network of women technologists helping one another”.
The cash awards are intended as a means for women established in technological fields to support women seeking their place in the fields of technology. The program is called “Pass-It-On” because it comes with the moral obligation to “pass on” the benefits gained from the award.
Awards: open to women in all countries and range from US$ 500 to US$ 1000. Requirements: any woman over 18 years old in or aspiring to be in the fields of computing can apply. Click here for details of projects accepted for grants. Application date: 22 April 2015.
(Featured image: Anita Borg (January 17, 1949 – April 6, 2003), American computer scientist. Photo by Ignite. Also, woman making it rain by expresscredit.)