The technology industry is growing faster than ever. We’ve come a long way in ten years. Now with the rise of smartphones, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, automated devices, what’s next? With this booming industry, there comes a need for workers (or not, if robots and artificial intelligence replace us all!) to guide it in the right direction. However, even in 2017, there’s still a lack of female representation in the tech industry.
As a rising senior in college, I remember taking intro to computer science my first semester in college. There were only a handful of women in my class, making up less than 50%. Outside of class, the department only had one woman professor (out of the six professors there), and there were only a small number of student tutors who were women. It was evident that computer science was a male-dominated field. Now, we’ve made small strides towards having more female representation: we now have two women professors (wow, what a jump…), the number of computer science majors who are women have slightly increased, and there are more female student tutors. So, you can say we’re slowly closing the gap in the gender imbalance.
Now, what does this look like in the real world?
Well, unfortunately, still very sparse. According to these statistics that I found here, 57% of professional occupations in the 2016 US workforce are held by women. However, only 26% of professional computing occupations in the 2016 US workforce are held by women. Not only that, there is also lack of representation for women of color in the tech industry, with only 3% of computing workforce being African American women, 5% being Asian American women, and 2% being Hispanic women in 2016.
So, why the disparity? Well, it’s because of the culture of the tech industry itself. Specifically, sexual harassment.
In Katie Benner’s NYTimes Article, “Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment,” Benner interviews current women in tech employees who have felt marginalised and distressed because of how they were treated by their male coworkers. These women were only seen as sexual objects to these men and were not taken seriously. What’s more disgusting is that whenever unwanted sexual advances were made and women reported these, companies would ignore them and shrug them off. Or, they would apologise and say that they would do better, but would continue onwards with not changing a thing.
What’s disheartening to me is that these women (and more) felt that they could not expressed their frustrations, because they would not be taken seriously, thus adding to more stress in an already stressful work environment. It came to a point that a lot of them had normalised this unfair treatment and just dealt with it on a day-to-day basis.
A quote I found shocking and saddening was one said by Lindsay Meyer, an entrepreneur in San Francisco, “‘I felt like I had to tolerate [the sexual advancements and treatments] because this is the cost of being a nonwhite female founder,’ said Ms. Meyer, who is Asian-American.” On top of being a woman, she is non-white, therefore feeling even more restricted. As an Asian American myself, I can relate, where I feel that I have to tolerate any racist or sexist comments/treatment I receive because of the fact that I am a non-white woman. Which, I shouldn’t have to deal with. No one should have to deal with unfair treatment in the work environment.
The fact that it is 2017 and that we are still dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is unbelievable. Why is sexual harassment still happening? Especially in a rapidly growing industry, we need more women in tech. However, it’s discouraging when women aren’t being taken seriously in the field. I know that whenever people outside of college ask me what I’m majoring in and I tell them computer science, they either look at me impressed (“Good for you!”) or they don’t take me seriously.
I hope to be a woman in tech, specifically a woman of color in tech, and be able to help with user experience. Seeing that companies are not taking the time and effort to improve their work culture is disheartening. Since companies are investing so much in their employees, they should make sure that everyone is getting treated with respect, right? It, unfortunately, doesn’t seem that way.