It is in any company’s best interest to make sure there are women on its team. Studies show that companies perform more poorly when there are fewer women in executive positions than when there are a greater number of women in leadership.
Even so, it’s not really news that women are overwhelmingly absent from the tech industry and face serious challenges within it. According to research on tech companies in Silicon Valley, 60 percent of women surveyed reported sexual harassment and 87 percent said that men had made disparaging comments to them.
Given the amount of antagonism women face in the field of technology, it’s no wonder that 56 percent of them “opt to leave the private science, engineering, and technology workforce.”
One woman on the receiving end of this type of behavior was Elissa Shevinsky, who told the New York Times in 2014 that she left her tech start-up after her male business partner, Pax Dickinson, reportedly posted sexist statements on Twitter. Shevinsky reported that she eventually reconciled with Dickinson after he published a letter of apology online.
However, not everyone agreed with how she handled the situation, and there isn’t a widespread consensus on how women should react to the discrimination they face in the tech industry. One commenter criticized Shevinsky for reconciling with Dickinson, saying that she was doing women a “disservice.”
One solution some propose is to create female tech communities, such as conferences that are intended only for women. But others would argue that this solution is harmful because it plays into the idea that women require a special space in order to be successful in tech, while men do not.
Initial Solutions and Silver Linings
While people disagree regarding viable solutions to the barriers women are confronting, there does seem to be a general consensus on some strategies companies can implement to support women. Many women would agree that a supportive environment includes the following:
- Female leaders who can serve as role models
- Events specifically tied to women’s empowerment
- Pro-women health benefits
- Equal pay for equal work
- Company culture friendly toward women
One example of a company culture that works is cloud-based communications provider Nextiva, as it strives to make women feel valued and supported in various ways, such as charitable giving. The company values philanthropy in general, supporting the needs of children, as well as others suffering from debilitating diseases. One of the causes it has supported recently is awareness for breast cancer.
Nextiva is an Institutional Member of the National Association of Women Lawyers, which exists to “provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in leadership in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law.”
While not a tech company per se, popular online retailer ModCloth has made a point of hiring female software developers, as well as making people aware of the importance of doing so. ModCloth also offers mentorship programs for female employees looking to advance in the tech industry.
What is perhaps most helpful, though, is that ModCloth doesn’t single out its female employees in any way that might be backhanded. Over half of the company’s employees are female, but ModCloth recognizes the importance of treating men and women equally, valuing employees for the skills they bring to their jobs, rather than overly focusing on employees’ genders.The change required for women to succeed in tech ultimately comes down to a shift in worldview. Click To Tweet
What’s working for tech industry heavy hitters?
Another tech company in Silicon Valley, Addepar is providing for the needs of women by emphasizing the importance of the family. The company funded breast cancer testing for all its female employees and offered the testing to the female significant others of its male employees.
As a result, Addepar’s pro-family policies have benefited the company’s reputation and increased its ability to hire talented people.
Still, a significant pay gap remains between men and women in the tech industry. However, some heavy-hitters, such as Apple and Microsoft, have reportedly eliminated that issue. And surprisingly, some women at entry-level tech positions are offered greater pay on average than men are.
But despite those few bright spots, greater steps need to be taken before significant progress is made toward equal pay for women.
It is helpful to remember that while women are under-represented in the tech industry, they are not absent, nor are their efforts weak. FastCompany has noted 25 women who are CEOs and founders of up-and-coming tech startups.While women are under-represented in the tech industry, they are not absent. Click To Tweet
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that while women-founded tech startups in New York City still lag behind those founded by men, start-ups run by women are nonetheless increasing.
All organizations profit from a variety of perspectives, and companies are only suffering as a result of the barriers against women in the technological workplace. The change required for women to succeed ultimately comes down to a shift in worldview, where both men and women recognize that women are equally as capable as men while bringing unique strengths to their organizations.