Women Leaving Tech In Droves
- Google, whose engineering workforce is only 17% female, introduced a training program in 2013 that aims to fight cultural biases. Employees play word association games, and are often surprised by how quickly they link engineering and coding professions with men, and less technical jobs with women.
- The reasons are varied. According to the Harvard study, they include a “hostile” male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path. An updated study in 2014 found the reasons hadn’t significantly changed.
- A Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.
- That’s a huge problem for the tech economy. According to the industry group Code.org, computing jobs will more than double by 2020, to 1.4 million. If women continue to leave the field, an already dire shortage of qualified tech workers will grow worse. Last summer, Google, Facebook, Apple and other big tech companies released figures showing that men outnumbered women 4 to 1 or more in their technical sectors.
- Sensitivity training, mentoring, instruction in negotiating tactics and other “incremental” measures won’t boost the numbers, said Joan C. Williams, law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and coauthor of “What Works for Women: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know.” Companies need to research the biases that prevent women from getting ahead, she said, and then devise “interrupters.” Instead of single training sessions, companies need to make systemic changes, she said.
“It’s a really frustrating thing,” said Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation. “The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment.”