Workplace & Gender Diversity In Technology
Imagine you open your morning paper, browse through the ads section, and find out about a great multinational company looking to hire someone with your skills. You send in your resume, get called in for an interview, ace it like you were born for the job and a few days later, get the congratulations call from the hiring manager. Bustling with excitement and energy, you start working there from 9-5 everyday, and a few months later, find yourself settled into a rhythm. But, after sometime, you start noticing that everyone in the office, from the director to the copy maker, are only men coming from the same background.
They are all males who look the same, sound the same and bring the same ideas to work every day. Since your company has a restrictive hiring policy, and prefers bringing onboard people from the same demographic, hence it lacks a dynamic, multi-faceted workforce that can be mobilized to drive strategic goals. This can, in turn, reduce the organizational productivity of your company, which is one of the major drawbacks of lacking diversity at the workplace.
In simple terms, Workplace diversity means having a company or organization, where employees bring in a wide range of experiences and characteristics, which may seem insignificant when looked at individually, but in collective terms, are very important. Diversity is not only confined to hiring employees from multiple age groups or genders. In fact, a diverse workforce consists of employees with varying personal & professional traits such as religious and political beliefs, culture, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation or geographic location. These are just a few examples of the traits that can help create a diverse workforce, and they may be expanded to include countless others characteristics. In a similar way, gender diversity is a sub category of workforce diversity and calls for inducting employees of both genders without any discrimination or preference.
Gender diversity is not just a banner that a company or organization can wave around to prove their commitment to women empowerment or their willingness to accept societal changes. In today’s world, it has become a business prerequisite because the workforce demographics have changed across the globe and a worldwide, globalized market has emerged.
Gender diversity helps employees secure many organizational benefits, the least of which includes the admiration of their fellow employees, customers, policy makers, and society leaders. Moreover, gender diversity encourages maintaining mutual deference and dignity among workers or employees of an organization, without looking at the sex of the employee. When any organization brings in workers and employees of both genders, (whether they belong to a different culture, race or ethnicity) and inculcates them with the need to work together with people holding widely different views in order to reach a consensus, a dynamic organizational culture and workplace environment is born.
Although it may seem difficult to reach such a stage where employees agree with the ideas of everyone else, however, simply listening can help employees gain a deeper appreciation for the viewpoints of their colleagues and also become acquainted with their traits and talents along the way. These are just some of the benefits of promoting gender diversity in a modern work environment.
Importance Of Workplace Gender Diversity
In the ever-evolving work environment of today, business managers are always adapting to new policies and approaches that could be more productive in recruiting employees, vendors or suppliers. An important research study conducted by the Journal of Small Business Management (SBM) suggests, “employers who recruit diverse workforces open their businesses to a wide range of ideas.”
Having a widely diverse workplace that welcomes both men and women from various demographics, whether they are African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, straight, homosexuals, or bisexuals, brings a range of benefits to an organization. Such as adding valuable ideas and insights to a workplace or selecting the best talent out there regardless of the gender. Since a diverse workforce involves members with varied experiences, teams can draw on the widely diverse viewpoints of their fellow employees while working on creative and challenging projects. Not only this, gender diversity also helps organizations grasp a better understanding of their clients & customers in both foreign and domestic markets.
Companies/Firms that recruit from a large & diverse pool of applicants have a better opportunity to assess candidates who are better qualified to fill a specific vacancy and can add the most value to their organization. Dr. John Sullivan, who is an instructor and consultant for a talent recruitment platform, notes that those businesses that opt not to recruit from diverse pools of candidates may not only miss talent but also be forced to increase recruiting costs. With only a limited pool of applicants, such businesses will have to spend more money to look harder for talent, offer greater pay to headhunt talent already employed by a competitor, and expend resources to train under skilled employees. In all cases, the costs will have to go up.
Another major benefit of gender diversity in the workplace pertains to organizational productivity. If the workplace is diverse, human resource managers can guide and tie together teams consisting of employees with varied abilities, specific competencies and eccentric potential from various socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Consequentially, this will result in teams having an innovative and dynamic approach to not just understanding, but deciphering many complex challenges faced by modern companies; thus ensuring that they maintain their edge in the market.
However, when HR managers spearhead efforts to train and recruit employees on diversity issues, management may see an increase in costs due to training and development. That is when managers tend to ignore the diversity factor during their recruitment drives. Predictably, organizations are overshadowed by men in the workplace with only a small minority of women found working there. Such an imbalance in workplace gender diversity is glaringly observed in several top organizations of the world, including Google, Microsoft, Apple and many more. And even where the number of women working in certain departments may be equal to, or more than the number of men, their presence in technology related fields is far less than their male counterparts.
The answer to the questions “Are there fewer women in technology fields as compared to men?” is an obvious yes. But the follow up question remains unanswered: “why?” Many important research studies have demonstrated that women are actively discouraged from studying computer courses right from school to high school and all the way to university and as a result, they suffer from a lack of enthusiasm for technological studies. Since personal computers and information technology play a colossal part in today’s digital economy, many talented information technology graduates are required in the workforce and it becomes critically important for large number of women to acquire skills in these zones.
These questions may not seem like an important issue to some, but if they are left unexplored, they will continue to have a major (and definitely worse) impact on global companies and organizations today and in the future. To gain a deeper understanding of the reasons why such few women remain employed in technology fields as compared to men, this article will attempt to explore the historical as well as cultural reasons behind low participation of female students in science, technology and engineering education from early on.
Our research will mainly focus on women in engineering & technology subjects and try to shed light on the reasons why some college females choose not to enroll in technology or engineering related degrees. We will also include examples and research data from a variety of credible sources to back up claims. Lastly, we will list the possible drawbacks of not having women in tech/engineering fields, along with some strategies that can help encourage & draw in more females in engineering and technology subjects. Finally, we will list the hurdles in overcoming challenges faced by women in the technology sector and provide tangible steps that can be taken by companies to recruit as well as retain more women in technology.
Generalized Overview Of The Reasons
Some of the reasons why the participation of women in technology industry is low include the limited opportunities that girls have for using computers at home and at school, lack of encouragement from parents or their mentors for exploring subjects like Mathematics, Physics and other science courses important for tech careers, very few female role models in engineering and tech fields, a curriculum that is designed to appeal more to boys than to girls and the age old stereotype linking females to stay-at-home life only.
Reasons Behind Fewer Women In Tech Fields
From an early age, majority of boys like studying in mixed classroom instead of going to all boys’ schools and colleges. In her book “Education Into the 21st Century: Dangerous Terrain For Women?” Professor Alison Mackinnon explains why it is unsurprising that boys prefer a coeducational environment and feel that their capacity to learn is enhanced by the presence of girls. Because their presence helps both boys & girls with learning difficulties, regulates classroom behavior, and provides a civilized atmosphere for everyone to study. Similarly, studies have proved that from classrooms to boardrooms, gender diversity is not just wanted, it is needed. Managers often understand this need because they know an all male environment will make the workplace boorishly homogeneous and a lack of diversity will directly influence workplace productivity.
However, workplace gender issues in companies and organizations have been around for decades and continue to remain widely prevalent today, not just in third world countries, but in first world countries as well.
Unfortunately, throughout history, women have been viewed stereotypically as the “stay at home to take care of the kids” person, and restrained from discovering their potential beyond it. An anthropological hypothesis expresses that all societies consist of two major domains, the domain of the family and the domain of the outside world/society to which the family is connected. Women were assigned to maintain the former domain, while men were meant to look after the latter. In this way, women became accustomed to living in the house, taking care of the children, buying groceries, preparing food and overseeing all chores required to maintain a home.
Meanwhile, men were required to interact with the wider society, provide for their family, protect it against threats and be the leader of the family. Continuing this tradition till World War II, women were only expected to look after household matters and not educate themselves to become part of the workforce. But post WWII and the baby boomer generation, women started taking active part in the rebuilding effort by going to universities, joining different industries and providing income for their families. Naturally, when the tech industry was born in the late 60s/early 70s, some women joined it in different roles as well.
Gender issues in technological fields have been there from the start and have only become more apparent over the course of time. In his research on gender issues in technology, professor In-Sook Lee states that “Research on computer history goes back before the 1970s to an earlier stage in the development of computer technology”. And further adds that “[…evidence about] gender contrasts for enrollment in software engineering courses has been available since the 1980s”. While stereotypes and the absence of role models plays a vital role in low participation of women in science and tech fields, there are other factors that may also prevent females from pursuing technology degrees. These include cultural attitudes, differences in the learning styles of women and men, and workplace environment.
Many studies have pointed to a patriarchal framework in our society where only men are deemed responsible for providing leadership, safety and financial security to the family. Though societies do not hold such views as strongly as they did in the past, parts of these generalizations are still alive today and inform our attitudes towards men and women. The adage that men are "analytical" and women are "emotional" stands out among the numerous presumptions made by the general masses. As a result of this frame of mind, many women who may want to pursue scientific, “analytical” studies are discouraged because they have been conditioned to believe that they are not well-suited for it.
If a female student is being constantly taught by society that she is incapable of achieving success in a science or technology field because that is a man’s domain, then naturally, she will be left demoralized to pursue such them. The truth is many women will potentially never step foot in a single computer class, or even enlist in one because they are already warned about facing uncomfortable odds or intellectual difficulties while pursuing science and tech related subjects. These perceptions and stereotypes that are thoroughly internalized in our society are one of the many reasons behind the low percentage of women in technology fields.
Judy Wajcman, a leading feminist author, wrote a research paper about the relationship between gender and technology education called “Reflections on Gender and Technology Studies: In What State is the Art?” In her research, she recalled that back in the 1960s during the famous Apollo program, 13 women pilots were judged by NASA to be among their top astronauts and found fit for the program. These women were intelligent, brave and exhaustively trained to compete with any of their male equivalents. But nonetheless, they were not selected to participate in the space program due to the prevalent social attitudes at the time. As a result, the space race became an exclusively male dominion and these women were deliberately left out of the history books.
She also presents an important point that “there is nothing natural or inevitable about the ways in which technology is defined as masculine, and masculinity is identified with technical competence. If a woman, rather than a man, had been the first American in space, the masculine culture of technology might have been disrupted or at least destabilized”.
This may be very valid, because different studies have reflected that technology fields are viewed, even today, as being naturally more suited to men rather than women. Kinnick and White both agree, “Manliness and technology are imagined as being typically interlaced, such that specialized skill has come to constitute a vital piece of male personality” So what can our women do? Should they hide under the shadow of such historical stereotypes or should they defy them by following a field that they not only have the passion for since childhood, but the ability too?
Over the years, there have been numerous scientific studies about the nature and process of learning along with its relation to people of both genders. According to Professor Howard Gardner, a Harvard educational psychologist and a leading voice on child learning, we can divide all young learners into two basic types: kinesthetic learners and phonetic learners. Kinesthetic learners have a tendency to absorb information more effectively by immersing themselves in physical activities, such as swimming or riding a bike. Phonetic learners, on the other hand, prefer learning by words mostly, either written or orally.
We know that male and female growth involves different hormones, and their developmental psychology in early years is different. Hence, members of both sexes exhibit clear differences in their learning preferences. Baker and Scantlebury (1995) found that most young girls prefer exercises of a social or verbal nature, and tend to excel in academic environments that gauge students learning through such exercises. One of the reasons why majority of social science majors are women is because subjects like anthropology, history and economics are better suited for phonetic learners.
Meanwhile, young boys show a greater preference for learning in classrooms by controlling or building things. This in turn also characterizes the pre-conceived notions our society has about most men. Many psychologists suggest that the reason why boys like building activities is because they are given toy guns and Lego blocks to play with during their childhood, whereas girls are given Barbie and dollhouses to act out social situations. And according to Elliot and Deimler, students attracted to technical education from an early age need a hands-on approach to learning, i.e. Kinesthetic learning. Because of these clear differences in the upbringing of girls and boys, very few girls grow up wanting to pursue careers in engineering or technology, where they would be required to build products.
While male students often remain confident in their decision to stick with science majors (should they choose them), females on the other hand, often have second doubts. Research by American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that the rate of females opting for engineering, science or IT majors decreases as they get into high school and further decreases as they go to undergraduate or graduate schools. Another study by Mitts in 2008 showed that there were only 15% of women choosing science, engineering and IT majors as compared to nearly 60% for men.
Furthermore, another crucial aspect regarding this issue is how science related activities in middle & high school curriculum can help develop interest in girls and encourage them to study technology subjects. Weber (2012) suggests that one way to push interest in science and tech subjects among young girls is to design and tailor subjects along with classroom activities in a way that can appeal to girls as well. Shroyer, Backe, & Powell (1995) suggest that the study of environmental and social technologies can be more appealing to girls than the study of industrial technologies (which is to boys).
Additionally, developing instructional methods, learning styles and course materials that can be characterized as distinctively female will also help them perform better in technology subjects. For example, research points to the fact that girls perform better in collaborative groups rather than in competition with each other. Therefore, teachers & lab instructors are recommended to form girls’ only groups, and assign technology related class projects to them. Resultantly, this can help reduce any differences in interest for technology related subjects between young boys and girls.
An important issue connected with the absence of women in science and tech fields is that there aren’t many previous examples available of great women in these fields and therefore, a lack of role models for our younger generation. Mary Thom in her research paper “Girls in Science and Technology: What’s New, What’s Next?” implies that “the need for famous examples of women in scientific fields and especially, among modern technology companies […] remains a fundamental challenge to the advancement of women in science, and technology". An absence of idols and prominent examples in technological fields can cause young girls to lose interest in such fields, and lose any hope of possible chances of success in these career paths. She goes on to agree that many women need positive examples or role models in science and tech fields in order to help them envision their own future in these careers.
A large number of founders of innovative technology companies and pioneers of the tech revolution have been men. Giants like Steve Jobs of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Bill Gates of Microsoft are only a few of the most well known names. In contrast, there are only a handful of examples of female tech entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the tech industry today, with the most prominent figures being Sheryl Sandberg & Marissa Mayer, COO of Facebook and CEO of Yahoo, respectively. Therefore, if women like Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer are presented as role models in our classrooms, then perhaps more girls may consider pursuing careers in technology. Female students interested in pursuing technology careers should especially read and ponder on the writings of Wacjman where she detailed the story of NASA’s thirteen female astronauts who hadn’t been included in the Apollo program because of discrimination. If one or all of those women had been made a part of the space race, many more women would have followed their example soon after.
Furthermore, many experts believe that a lack of exposure to engineering or computers often results in low interest rate for technology careers among girls. The University of Newcastle conducted a study to analyze the gender dynamics in an engineering class and what factors (for men and women) contribute the most towards pursuing software, computer science or IT undergraduate education. In particular, the study investigated the degree of exposure to engineering prior to enrollment and the form of that exposure. The results of the study for both male and female engineering students are discussed below.
In the study survey, the majority of male students cited ‘tinkering with mechanical equipment, ‘family influence’ and ‘using computers as tools’ to be the most influential factors in their decision to pursue a career in engineering and technology. Also, more than one third of all male students considered ‘using computers as tools’, ‘computer software’, ‘building electronic equipment’ and ‘computer hardware’ as important influences in their decision to pursue tech careers, showing that there was a clear and strong trend among the male students for an early & vast exposure to the world of computers.
Unsurprisingly, none of the male students reported ‘No previous exposure’ to engineering and technology fields. Lastly, building model toys during childhood helped the male students become better kinesthetic learners, which is important for studying engineering and technology programs.
Also, the findings of this study reinforce the conclusions of previous research (see page 5) about how subtle and unconscious differences in bringing up girls and boys (different toys) can enormously disadvantage girls in science and technology education afterwards.
The research study reveals that within the cohort of surveyed female engineering students, the biggest cited influence for women prior to enrollment was ‘visiting engineering sites’. Many female students confirmed that visiting projects or sites on class field trips and accidentally learning about engineering acted as a major influence in their choice of career. The next most important factors for female students were ‘family influence’ and ‘using computers as tools’, with almost one third of the female students indicating one of the two areas contributing in their prior exposure to computers and technology. The female students especially saw their families as important in supporting them with gathering information about engineering courses and career options.
The most significant influencing factor for male students and the most distinctive difference between the genders was reflected in the stereotypical ‘tinkering’ options. Tinkering here refers to the categories of ‘tinkering with mechanical equipment’, ‘built model toys’ and ‘built electronic equipment’. For male students, almost two thirds selected some form of ‘tinkering’, with a quarter selecting ‘built model toys’ and on third selecting ‘built electronic equipment’. However, only one-fifth of the female students selected any of the ‘tinkering’ categories. The female students commented that they were keen on playing with Lego blocks in childhood and some even had experience with farming machinery in tool sheds before. The ‘work experience’ category also stood out as an area of distinct difference between genders with only one female student having some exposure to engineering through work experience as compared to half of all male students having had some prior experience.
One student addressed the historical gender bias in engineering by stating:
“I can understand the engineering degree option for males. Not trying to turn this into a sexist situation, but historically I guess boys would go into those fields if they have the educational prerequisites to follow that goal”.
Thus, an interest in science and or mathematics at school was an important ingredient for both males and females, but, due to the macho image of engineering and technology, they were often seen as career options for mostly men. For female students, the love of mathematics and science needs to be combined with both the support and encouragement from a teacher, family member, or with some previous (including accidental) exposure to engineering and technology. One factor given a high priority by all students was an undergraduate degree with the prospect of a stable job that would pay well and which could provide interesting career opportunities. It was also clear in the comments from many female students that they would prefer careers where they could use technology to impact social issues and the environment, reaffirming the previous research points discussed in this area (see page 6).
Studies further demonstrate that very few female undergraduate students feel inspired by computer science subjects and have little to no confidence in their abilities to pursue technology subjects. When female undergraduate students are presented with clear examples of other women who had previously travelled the road of computer science and conquered obstacles in the way of pursuing technology careers, they will acquire greater confidence in themselves and their abilities. And in a similar way, their courage to follow their own interests instead of what society has chosen for them would encourage more girls in the future to broaden their horizons and seek careers in technology. Nonetheless, this issue is a vicious cycle, as the absence of previous examples of women to guide or inspire the current generation, can lead to fewer girls opting for and studying tech subjects, and therefore, prompting a lack of examples for future generations of women.
But be that as it may, why are good examples so critical? Aristotle expressed that good examples pave a better path for our dispositions and practices. What we learn in our life is mostly taken from the actions and examples of wise men and women before us. Lee (1996) best expressed the impact that good examples can have on a society by stating that:
“They put to rest insecurities about a group’s potential to succeed in American society, and they actively lead its members to the fulfillment of that potential. Without a role model, a dissatisfied group’s breadth of vision is severed, obliterating its brightest and highest point. The possibilities are no longer endless, but severely constrained.”
The tech community urgently needs more female role models to make up for the decades of lost female engineers, computer scientists, programmers, business managers, CEOs, developers and web designers. These role models will help girls and women expand their ‘breadth of vision’ and allow them to reach their ‘brightest and highest point’. In contrast, many men have already accomplished unprecedented successes in technological fields, and have set excellent examples for other males aspiring to succeed in this industry.
Additionally, the challenges of balancing work and family produce barriers for women wanting to work in technology. It is pretty well known that every woman has to make a choice between settling down at home to start a family, or pursue a full-time career. The demands of work coupled with the demands of family can become problematic for some women as they seek creative ways to continue maintaining their family structure and contend with the increasing demands and pressures arising from their work.
Some initiatives that can be taken by organizations and companies to address these issues include providing work-life balance programs such as flexible work schedules, daycare centers, and family leave, establishing support or networking groups, and launching campus recruitment drives to invite more women into technology industry. Other initiatives that can be implemented include removing discriminatory workplace practices such as unconscious bias, providing training and development programs for both men and women, and introducing mentoring programs for newly recruited female employees.
Another important point raised in previous research is about the workplace environment in technology companies and its impact on women. A healthy work environment is critical not just to improve gender diversity, but also increase organizational productivity. Although an idyllic workplace environment is difficult to achieve, but for women in particular, it is incredibly difficult to settle in an environment where they have to face implicit or explicit discrimination. A former Microsoft executive, Kieran Snyder once conducted a study where he interviewed more than 700 women for different technology positions.
All of these women had some experience in the tech industry, where they had previously held positions in over 500 companies located in dozens of US states. On average, these women had worked in technology for seven years before leaving it for other sectors. Kieran asked these women specifically why they opted out. Almost a quarter of the interviewed women cited discomfort working in their current or former companies. The overt or implicit discrimination they had to face in their workplace was a primary factor in their decision to leave tech for good. Many of them stated that this discrimination would sometimes be related to their age, race, or sexuality and in most other cases, either to their gender or motherhood.
They also stated that lack of flexible work arrangements for mothers and wives, an unsupportive work environment, or a salary that was inadequate to pay for childcare contributed to their decision to leave. Like technology companies, any modern organization needs to have a suitable environment that caters to their female employee’s collective needs and therefore, provides them with the peace of mind necessary to immerse themselves in work. Without that, there aren’t many hopes for greater gender diversity in the technology sector.
An important study was undertaken to assess the range and level of discrimination faced by African-American, Latina and other non-white women working in science or technology careers. Every single one of the surveyed women reported that they had faced some form of gender or racial bias once or multiple times in their work environment. Nearly half of the Black and Latina females said that over the course of their careers in different organizations, they had often been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff, and the majority of Black, Latina, and Asian-American women reported that they had often felt compelled to provide more proof to their boss and superiors their competency to work alongside their male coworkers. More than fifty percent of the participants reported that they had experienced backlash after having expressed anger, frustration or assertiveness at work, while every 13 out of 20 women who were mothers experienced discrimination and gender stereotyping.
These are some of highlighted issues that can very well explain why the number of women working in the tech industry is far behind men, as well as the higher dropout rate for college women from technology courses.
The data published by UNESCO shows a remarkably low presence of women in science and engineering undergraduate and graduate programs and almost opposite to that of men. The only positive trend in these published statistics reveals that a greater percentage of women go on to enroll in doctoral or PHD programs as compared to men. Though difficult, these challenges can be overcome if educational institutions, whether schools, colleges or universities, devise and adopt strategies that encourage and foster female participation in science, engineering and IT fields. But, as indicated by child educator Gail Crombie, the challenging thing to do is first make the necessary gender-parity data available to help propose strategies and help counter gender related preconceptions about computer science and I.T education. It will be far easier after that to teach our girls real facts about technology or engineering fields and show how they are perfectly suited to follow these options, just like their male counterparts.
In exploring ways to increase female engagement in technology education, development psychologists and education experts regularly recommend one particular strategy: utilizing female only classes. Professor Fidishun in her article “Gender & Technology” trusts this technique to be an effective approach towards making technology and computer education more engaging as well as accessible to women. Harvey and Swain also concur on a similar position in their article “Single-Sex Computer Classes: An Effective Alternative”. They contend that girls behave and perform quite differently in coeducational or female only classes. In female only classrooms, girls show an eagerness to participate in discussions about different topics, including technology, and request help whenever needed". This is opposite to mixed classes where boys tend to dominate discussions, and girls feel too intimidated to openly participate or ask for help. While agreeing that the current teaching methodology is not drawing female students towards science subjects, they argue that the concept model of girls’ only computer & I.T classes may improve the situation by providing a more conducive environment to females.
In similar cases, results of studies have shown that female only classrooms observe less hostility, enhanced collaboration, and contribute to boosting girls’ confidence levels. Girls appear to take a deeper interest in computer science and technology subjects, without any reluctance and doubts about their own abilities or chances of success.
Another key strategy is a providing positive encouragement. In the research article “Bridging the Gender Gap in High-Technology Education”, Professors Abarbanel, Anderson, and Crombie investigated the effects of positive encouragement on female students who studied computer science courses. They went on to explain how their research has led them to discover that positive encouragement in computer courses are a critical indicator of intuitive appeal for girls towards information technology education. High school and college professors must help female students form sound career plans that also include computer science and IT as possible career trajectories. Along with providing female students with positive encouragement and constructive criticism, educators should also bring in parents, mentors and coaches to help guide girls better. Reinforcing previous solutions, Thom recommends one important strategy in her article, where she states, "[…in order] to invigorate enthusiasm among girls for embracing computer education, teachers must take a hands-on approach in understanding and addressing their learning needs".
One more way to overcome the lack of gender diversity in software and technology fields is to change the thinking and perceptions men have towards women. There are a number of surveys and research studies that have shown most women feeling uncomfortable working in male dominant workplaces. Furthermore, there are 19.7% more harassment cases in male dominated workplaces than in female dominant or balanced ones. Women need to be able to ignore or preferably, confront the bias or negativity that they may face when they enter a male dominated classroom or workplace.
Several studies also show how some male students and employees tend to treat their female colleagues with indifference or lack of respect. For example, in one study, Murray explored the attitudes men have towards women who pursue either an engineering, science or technology related career. They discovered that several men did not feel comfortable talking about gender issues or they had strong negative comments. One male implied that women were “taking their jobs”. And not only do some men have biased attitudes; some women underestimate their abilities as well. For example, there was a survey undertaken by Steve Hackbarth at a US university to investigate the attitudes of female engineering students towards computer literacy. The resulting study found that several women thought they didn’t have the natural competency in computing to succeed in computer classes or technology positions.
Mentoring and training female technology experts is another effective approach to retain women in technology companies. Older women may now and again be tempted to leave tech jobs as a result of uncertainty about their career prospects, or to avoid hostility with some male colleagues who don’t have to confront the same discrimination. Good female role models, thorough exposure and management guidance can provide targeted advice to such women, and help female technology professionals with their career growth. Through these steps, women can find out how others tend to handle similar difficulties, and discover alternatives that they had not considered before.
Furthermore, offering better financial incentives — by narrowing or wiping out the pay gap between equally talented male and female employees — may likewise pull in more women into tech, or convince some to keep their jobs. Pay raises and promotions ought to consider gendered efficiency examples, and move away from conventional work evaluations that best suit only men. Getting more female technology professionals inducted into top-level, basic leadership positions in the startup world, state and federal institutions, and technology industry can have a major impact on the current generation of college women, especially if those senior women push strategies & policies that can help tackle gender equality issues in technology.
Finally, a major reason why women don’t apply for jobs in technological fields is because married women often don’t receive the proper support from their families and organizations. Mothers (especially those with toddlers) are often left the responsibility for taking care of their children along with managing a career. Adaptable work schedules and the option to work remotely from home will not only provide mothers with the option to work at convenient hours, but may also be helpful by allowing working women to spend more time with their children and family at home.
Likewise, building feedback systems and emotionally supportive networks in organizations can help married women discover and maintain a strong work-life balance. Many modern companies are now providing a special space for breastfeeding mothers, and even some organizations in third world countries, for example the Multan Electric Power Company in Pakistan, have an onsite childcare center! Despite the fact that large number of mothers wants to enter or remain in the technology workforce, many companies still consider these facilities as ‘unnecessary’ or ‘costly’, even though they ought to be the standard. Although, the technology industry continues to remain woefully behind everyone else with regards to shaping progressive policies for working mothers, but still, there are a number of organizations and business leaders trying to implement exemplary policies. Netflix, for instance, has instituted an unlimited paid time off for new mothers during a child’s first year, and Bank of America offers up to $2,900 in child care reimbursements annually, along with forty days of subsidized backup day care per year.
Increasing the number of women in the technology sector will not only help in increasing workplace productivity as well as company reputation, but it will also serve the business by providing a true representation of its customer base. Women constitute more than half of all technology customers, from owners of iPhones, computers, laptops to Facebook and Instagram users, and nearly all forms of digital technology.
Therefore, it’s important to have a balanced representation of women in every technology workplace since they can influence important design, development & management decisions on every level and align products/services with half of the company’s user base. Over the last 70 years, women have made tremendous progress and won achievements in all walks of life, from congress to corporations, and, giving them increased access to the right opportunities in the technology industry will help unlock new potential as well as allow our society to flourish more rapidly.
- UNESCO Science, Technology and Gender: An International Report (2005)
- UNCTAD Economic Importance of Educating Women and Girls Highlighted in Panel Session (2011)
- UNDP India Discussion Paper on Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes for Alleviating Human Poverty: Relevance for India (2009)
- UN Millennium Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women (fact sheet) (2010)
- Frogameni, Bill. "Diversity in the Workplace Entails More than Just Hiring Practices." South Florida Business Journals. N.p., 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2010.
- Sullivan, John. “The compelling Business case.” Ere.net. N.p 14 Jan. 2000. Web. 14 Jan 2000.
- Lee, In-Sook. “Gender Differences in Self-regulated On-line Learning Strategies within Korea’s University.” Educational Technology Research and Development 50.11 (2002): 101-11.
- Wajcman, Judy. “Reflections on Gender and Technology Studies: In What State is the Art?” Social Studies of Science 30.3 (2000): 447-64.
- Kinnick, Katherine N, and Candace White. “One Click Forward and Two Clicks Back: Portrayal of Women Using Computers in Television Commercials.” Women’s Studies in Communication 23.3 (2000): 392-412.
- Thom, Mary. “Girls in Science and Technology: What’s New, What’s Next?” The Education Digest 67.5 (2002): 17-24.
- Weber, K. & Custer, R. (2005). Gender-based preferences toward technology education content, activities, and instructional methods. Journal of Technology Education, 16(2), 55-71.
- Burrowes, G. (n.d.). Gender Dynamics in an Engineering Classroom: Engineering Students’ Perspectives. Ph.D. University of Newcastle.
- Lee, N. (1996). Our lack of role models.
- Mitts, C. R. (2008). Gender preferences in technology student association competitions. Journal of Technology Education, 19(2), 80-93.
- Baker, D.R & Scantlebury, K. (1995). Science "coeducation": Viewpoints from gender, race and ethnic perspectives.
- Abarbanel, Tracey Colin Anderson, and Gail Crombie. “Bridging the Gender Gap in High-Technology Education.” NAASP Bulletin 84.618 (2000).
- Abarbanel, Tracy, Colin Anderson, and Crombie. Gail, “Getting Girls into Tech Classes.” The Education Digest 66.5 (2001): 42-8.
- Harvey Douglas M., and Sandra L. Swain. “Single-Sex Computer Classes: An Effective Alternative” TechTrends 46.6 (2001): 17-20.
- Keller, Douglas M. “Technological Revolution, Multiple Literacies, and the Restructuring of Education.” Educational Theory, 1999.
- Fidishun, Dolores. “Gender & Technology” TechTrend 46.6 (2002)