The tech world often feels like an insular group, particularly in locales like the Bay Area, but lately women have been speaking up about the vast chasm between genders within tech culture. It’s no secret that the industry is a boy’s club that can be downright hostile toward women, with let’s face it, disgusting apps like “Titstare” marketed at conferences, the big red “zero” number of women speakers invited to speak at the Wall Street Journal Tech Conference, and GitHub’s sexist, hostile work environment. But apparently, a great gender bias exists in hiring and wages for women in tech, which is bad news for more than one reason.
In a 2012 study from Scientific American, researchers found that both women and men underestimate women’s knowledge, whether they are aware of it or not. This leads to lower starting salaries, fewer promotions and room for advancement for women in science and technology roles. In the study, the exact same employment application was evaluated, but with a male name and then a female name. Female applicants were rated lower according to abilities and skill set, even though they were exactly the same. Lower starting salaries were also offered to the female applicants, and scientists were less likely to offer mentorship to them as well. When asked for an explanation, the evaluators didn’t use sexist reasoning, but rather evaluated on merit. Rather than blatant sexism, this demonstrates deeply imbedded gender bias that is tricky to root out.
This study reinforces the gross lack of women in tech. Aside from the very public figures of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, women remain painfully underrepresented in the tech world. In an extreme instance, Dropbox has 134 male engineers and nine female engineers. Mozilla employs 457 male engineers compared with 43 female engineers. These numbers reflect that an alarming number of only one sex determining the future of technology, which is largely shaping the world in which we live.
In another example of why this disparity hurts us, it affects the earning potential of women as a whole. In Santa Clara, the central heart of Silicon Valley, the wage gap increased dramatically after the Great Recession, with men making a median of $91,471 and women a median of $56,996. This disparity reflects both wage inequity and a lack of women in the industry fueling Silicon Valley’s economy.
Why does all this matter? Who cares if women are in tech or not?
Well, for starters, most women are deeply offended by the idea of an app that is designed for the ogling of the female body (Titstare, I’m looking at you). It perpetuates rape culture, the objectification of women, and just downright nasty stuff for future generations looking to us for how to behave toward one another. However, it also features another industry, much like finance and politics, with potential for growth, power innovation, and income generation solely dedicated to the boys. And what does that leave us ladies doing? Teaching at poverty-ish wages? Childcare? Cooking over a stove barefoot and pregnant? Office administration?
We need to do better for our daughters, and for ourselves. I do not want to one day need to explain the concept of “Titstare” to any of my children.