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BLOG: Technology is sexist

Jonny Evans | Nov. 1, 2013
The number of women working in technology is far below the percentage in the workforce at large, and enrollment numbers suggest that improvement isn't imminent.

Sandberg, Mayers, Ahrendts
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and Angela Ahrendts of Apple have high-profile positions at tech companies, but they are the exception, not the rule.Credits: World Economic Forum/Magnus Hij/Reuters

Institutionalized sexism is a subtle beast, a pervasive creature that exists in multiple forms across society. When it comes to the lack of women in technology, we must eradicate this animal in order to ensure that the industry is truly representative of the planet it is changing.

That's not to say there are no women in technology — there are, but any social scientist will tell you the true nature of institutionalized prejudice is well masked by the existence of a few high-profile members of the group. The existence of a few successes doesn't mean barriers don't exist. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer may be women in senior positions within the technology industry, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule.

You only need to take a look at this report on The Atlantic website to get a sense of what women need to fight against:

* The fast-growing tech industry generates far more new businesses, industries and jobs than any other sector.

* Tech-sector jobs are much better paid than the average.

* Yet there are more vacancies within the sector than people to fill them.

* Despite this, research by Maria Klaw at Harvey Mudd College shows young women don't think technology is interesting.

* That research also reveals a perception among young women that they wouldn't be good in a tech-sector role.

* It also tells us they "wouldn't feel comfortable" with the people they would work with.

In combination, these and other challenges explain why just 0.4% of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science and the number of females studying the subject has halved since 1985.

That's ridiculous. We're talking about a lively industry that touches almost every part of human experience, that rewards its workers with above-average salaries, and that has jobs going begging. We need women to help shape a better and more diverse future.

Why aren't more women involved? Despite accounting for 47% of the U.S. workforce, women hold only 25% of jobs in computing. Worse, just 20% of Fortune 500 CIOs are women — and even then, the relative lack of media attention given to these women makes it almost forgivable to imagine the only women in technology are Sandberg and Mayer. Which isn't true.

That's the point. There are multiple levels at which institutionalized sexism can be seen at work within this situation:

 

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