The gender gap and women and tech has been recognized as an issue since at least 2005.
This hot topic is the subject of a recent surge of articles.
It is tough to believe that by the end of 2016, women will hold fewer than 25 percent of information technology (IT) jobs. This number is about the same or possibly even down from 2015. Apparently, there is not a simple fix to the problem of women and the tech sector.
This issue can be attributed to a variety of factors:
- Education – Only 18% of US university computer science graduates in 2013 were women. This is down from 37% in 1985. That percentage aligns with the mere 18% of female high school students taking the AP Exam for Computer Science in 2013. Parents’ role in encouraging younger girls to be interested in STEM may be part of the key to changing this trend.
- Hiring – Studies show that both men and women are twice as likely to hire a man for an IT job as an equally qualified woman. Unconscious gender biases may be driving this pattern. To offset this, many companies have put in place “un-biasing” training initiatives. But even factors like gender specific styles of creating CVs can negatively impact women candidates.
- Retaining – According to a 2014 study, women in IT roles are 45 percent more likely than men to leave in their first year. A hostile or sexist brogrammer culture can also create an uncomfortable and/or sexist work environment. Workplace policies not suited to women including marathon coding sessions, expectations around not having children, lack of adequate maternity leave and childcare all may play a role.
- Pay & Promotion– A gender pay gap is still prevalent. US female web developers make 79 cents to the dollar. Female computer and information systems managers make 87 cents to the dollar compared to men in similar roles. In the US a quarter of women with IT roles feel stalled in their careers.
On a positive note, large Silicon Valley tech companies in the public spotlight are beginning to narrow the gender and diversity gap. It is likely that the gender diversity numbers at high-profile publicly traded companies will rise over time. They will serve as a bell weather for smaller companies. However, women are still more likely to be hired for less IT and technical roles within those companies. While the statistics are pretty grim on this one, we rarely hear about the success stories. I have the good fortune to be employed in a real-life business environment where women in tech are thriving.
CloudBase Services, a boutique IT consulting firm based in Berkeley, employs a majority of female developers and consultants. The company culture does not include pong tables and ample snack bins. However, employees value much more the policies of flexible hours, the ability to work remotely and open daily communication about sick kids or vet appointments for the dog. Everyone works hard and gets the job done while disproving the notion that women and tech are not a natural fit. CloudBase Services is not a huge Silicon Valley start-up or large Fortune 500 company, but it does have some lessons for other firms interested in hiring more women for IT roles. I sat down with CloudBase Services and HASPOA Founder Debbie Taylor and asked her for her insights into creating profitable IT companies with policies and culture that work for both the female and male employees.
RC: What were your first jobs like and what key experiences lead you to create your own IT consulting firm?
DT: My first job was at Strategic Planning Associates. I learned the power of collecting data, analyzing it and presenting the results in bite-size pieces. Although I’ve changed industries and companies many times, in many ways, I still do the same things.
RC: What have you done to build company culture?
DT: In order to have a company with a good culture, we first had to build a good company. CloudBase Services began with – and remains – committed to delivering excellent products and services. Every client gets a custom solution and honest business advice. As a result, most customers stick with CloudBase Services for years.
To keep CloudBase staff working at the firm for years, I consciously try to create a friendly, open, supportive office culture. I make sure that my familial responsibilities don’t interfere with my work commitments … and the rest of the CloudBase Services team does that same. I share stories about my kids and love hearing about my colleagues’ adventures. If I am leaving early to pick-up my kids, I am honest and unapologetic
RC: How do you hire? What traits do you look for?
DT: CloudBase Services looks for “people people.” During the interview process, my colleagues and I look for people with
- Skills and experience
- High standards … people who strive for technical excellence and customer delight
- Ability to work independently and be a team player
- Humility, humor
RC: What advice do you have for companies that want to hire more women in IT roles?
DT: CloudBase Services gives staff nearly unlimited, unpaid vacation. In return, each staff person finds a colleague to provide “vacation coverage to his or her clients.
That benefit – the chance to choose when to work – is very attractive to prospective employees.
I would love to hear more positive anecdotes from other women happily employed in the tech sector to dispel some of those preconceived notions and show that women in tech is not a fairytale after all.