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What Gamergate says about the tech industry

Preston Gralla | Nov. 4, 2014
The antipathy toward women expressed in the Gamergate dispute reflects uncomfortable truths about the rest of the tech industry.

It's not just on the tech side of technology companies that this happens; it's on the business side as well. A recent study by the Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership found that fewer female MBAs take jobs in "tech-intensive" industries after graduation than do male MBAs, 24% for men versus 18% for women. The report also found that women face many problems once they get in the industry: few female co-workers, mentors, bosses and role models. As a result, women leave tech in larger numbers than do men.

It needn't be that way. The report concludes, "The attrition of women in tech-intensive industries is not inevitable. It is possible to transform the culture of a male-dominated organization through concerted effort."

Even Microsoft, long recognized as a progressive company, fell into the trap recently when CEO Satya Nadella said women would be better off waiting for good karma to bring them raises than ask for raises themselves. Ariane Hegewisch, study director at the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research, responded to Nadella by tartly telling, "There's not a lot of evidence that karma has been friendly to women in this area."

She's right: Women have long made less money in tech than do men. Research by the think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley found that men in Silicon Valley with graduate or professional degrees earn 73% more than do women with the same degrees. For those with bachelor degrees, the research found, the gap was 40%.

To Nadella's credit, he immediately moderated his statement. Still, Microsoft says that its workforce is only 29% women. Google says 30% of its employees are female. Facebook puts its figure at 31%.

So it's easy to tut-tut about Gamergate. But it's not just game-loving boys or men stuck in misogynist adolescence who are the problem in tech. The culture of the entire industry, from tech titans down to startups, is to blame.


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