Gender discrimination dominates the tech industry, and this blog will shed light on this issue, in response to Paul Edward’s article, “The Army and the Microworld: Computers and the Politics of Gender Identity”.
Edwards begins his paper on gender identity by noting the importance of computer work as both a social and cultural practice, as well as a form of employment. First focusing on the latter, Edwards notes that:
“Yet in spite of these facts, computer work remains a largely male world, one in which women are perceived as unprepared, alien, or unwilling participants.” (Edwards 1990).
In passing, I think many would agree with this point. However, it is important to look first at the current state of computer employment, as we must remember that this claim was made in an article published in 1990.
- Edwards notes that in 1984, “35 percent of U.S. computer programmers and 30 percent of American systems analysts were women.”
- In 2014, women represented 23% of computer programmers and 35% of computer systems analysts.
- More generally, computer and mathematical occupations are just 26.1% women, compared to 47% employed people over the age of 16 being women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Therefore, we can conclude that Edwards noted gender discrimination is alive and well in today’s workplace just as it was in the 80’s.
The next logical question is why this discrimination exists? This diversity issue is being increasingly noted by large corporations (Apple and Google have both noted gender division problems), where the blame is being placed on “the pool of job applicants, which is dominated by white men and Asians, for its lack of diversity” (Wash Post Article). Therefore, I find it hard to place blame on these corporations, as their job, for the sake of firm prosperity, is to fill job openings with the best possible candidates, regardless of race or gender.
Edwards goes on in a description of “modes of thinking”, and how men and women think differently and how this results in different skill developments between the genders. I am choosing to ignore this approach to gender discrimination, as I do not know how woman think, and will not pretend to do so. Nor do I think that cognitive differences are the driving force behind gender discrimination in tech occupations. Rather, this problem was likely one created in the beginning of the tech boom. Almost 20 years ago, when technology started its massive growth period, tech junkies were seen as men working alone in basements on their personal computers. So when one initially thought of technology occupations, men were the first employees that came to mind. This is similar to jobs such as secretaries, where women are 94% of the workforce, or human resource managers, 71% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The ideology employed here is that one is unlikely to enter a workplace where they feel uncomfortable or misrepresented. Once a bias exists, it is incredibly difficult to remove this bias. People flock to groups in which they feel comfortable, especially in the workplace where one may feel it is even more important to find a job in which they can maximize upward future mobility.
So, referring back to technology professions, once the ideology that surrounded tech was that it was for males, the industry became male dominated. Men dove more deeply into this profession, studied computer science, and as a result males dominated the talent pool for tech firms.
To help women become larger players in the tech workplace, we need more female leaders such as Kristine Snow (Cisco) and Kim Stevenson (Intel).
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/cps/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2014.pdf
Washington Post Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/29/most-google-employees-are-white-men-where-are-allthewomen/
Image 1: http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/file_type/ncwit_computing_jobs_women.jpg
Image 2: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/markfidelman/files/2012/06/image4.png