Guest: The tech industry needs to be more welcoming to women

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE

How the gender imbalance in tech hurts women and innovation

As a woman, I’ve met countless surprised expressions waiting outside my computer science classes after I confirm that, yes, I am indeed a computer science major. Even in the comfortable and accepting space of UC Davis, I’ve studied in a computer lab as the only woman in the room and experienced an overwhelming feeling of being out of place and unwelcome.

There’s an even bigger problem in the tech industry — my experiences are minor in comparison to those of other women, and it only gets much, much worse.

Although the percentage of women making up the United States workforce has dramatically increased, from 26.8 percent in 1948 to 46.8 percent in 2015, the percentage of women in technology positions has actually seen a significant decrease over time. The percentage of computing occupations held by women reached a high of 37 percent in 1991. Now, a mere 26 percent of computing occupations are held by women.

There’s no confusion as to why many women are discouraged from working in the tech industry. Bea Arthur, an entrepreneur, was working with an investor when he exposed himself to her. Arthur commented that the male investor would have seen a man as an “opportunity, a colleague, a peer, a mentor” — but he instead saw Arthur as a woman first and foremost.

In another example, Lindsay Meyer, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, received various text messages from her investor Justin Caldbeck asking whether she was attracted to him and questioning why she would rather be with her boyfriend over him. Caldbeck ultimately groped and kissed her. Meyer said that she initially felt she had to tolerate this harassment because it’s “the cost of being a non-white female founder.”

Frighteningly, there are many more known stories of the harassment of women in male-dominated workplaces — as well as many stories that will go unheard.

There’s a massive imbalance of power and influence between women and men in tech, which continues to place women in uncomfortable situations (at its least severe) and deters women from pursuing a job in the industry.

It’s important to fix this problem to give women the fair treatment we deserve, and also because having more women involved in technology is an integral driving force in producing the greatest possible products. Having more diverse teams improves the process of creation by providing a wider range of opinions and thoughts. Companies can then refine and develop products that are more appealing to everyone.

If we want the technology industry to continue to grow and excel, we need both halves of the population to feel welcome to participate. The only way we can fix this issue is through the women in tech who continue to display their strength and stand tall in an environment that sometimes wants to reject them. By knowing our worth and embracing the passion and excitement of being a pioneer in the tech world, we can overcome any obstacles that come our way.

 

Written by: Amber Graham — ajgraham@ucdavis.edu

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