Posted on 8/03/2018 by Kaitlin McAndrews
Thousands gathered at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology event in October last year. As Thoughworks’ CTO Rebecca Parsons made her way to the stage to accept the 2016 award for Top Companies for Women Technologists, she delivered a deeply humbling statement: “I wish I was able to stand here and say we’ve solved the gender gap…though things are much better than they were years ago, we know that’s not the case”.
The gender pay gap was one of the most discussed topics at the World Economic Forum this January in Davos. While this issue resonates worldwide, the tech industry is notably hit the hardest – demanding the greatest need for skilled workers in what is being heralded as the 4th Industrial Revolution. In the WEF's Global Gender Report published in October last year, it is stated that;
"One area in which women continue to remain under-represented is among STEM graduates, for which the global gender gap stands at 47%, with 30% of all male students graduating from STEM subjects, in contrast to 16% of all female students. That gap is commonly attributed to negative stereotypes and lack of role models, lowering girls’ performance and aspirations vis-à-vis science and technology".
A look back at history shows that women who are now beginning their careers in tech are actually facing greater hurdles than women did 30 years ago. In the 2013 documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, women actually made up a greater proportion of computer science graduates 30 years ago compared to today – making up 37% of graduates compared to 14% in 2013. This decline hints towards a greater issue – one of the negative stereotypes of women in a male-dominated industry complemented by a lack of female role models and colleagues. In Fortune's article Tech’s Gender Pay Gap Hits Younger Women Hardest, there is an interesting finding that “the gap is largest for women early in their careers, with women under 25 earning on average 29% less than men their age, while the gap drops to only 5% for workers over 50”.
The tech industry’s gender pay gap is a complex problem with roots in stereotypes which have survived hundreds of years. Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators, a novel inspired by his daughter, has brought widespread attention to how little the role of women was discussed and recognised in the history of innovation and technology. Recently Cheryl Sandberg also addressed this issue in a New York Times article; “Stereotypes are very reinforcing because as humans we expect what is familiar…in tech, girls don’t code because girls don’t code”. She goes on to say that one way to change this “is carefully documenting the role women played in the dawn of technology”.
Reshma Saujani, the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code – an initiative which aims to close the gender gap in Computer Science and Technology is a passionate advocate of this issue;
“If women had been more prominently talked about in computing, both in the history books and schools, we literally would not have the lack of women programmers that we do today,” Ms. Saujani said. “It’s about role models. You can’t be what you cannot see”.
To that end, a message articulated by Walter Isaacson’s daughter really brings this issue home, having said in a New York Times article;
“I was in high school computer science classes and I never once heard about these women…Yet the first time I had ever read about a female programmer was in a Batman comic book…Ada Lovelace played probably the most important role in computing”.
Parallel and Leading Ladies think you’ll be surprised by just how big a role women did play in shaping the digital age. See our slideshow below discussing the impressive achievements of a small segment of amazing women that history just hasn’t acknowledged enough and have proved to be Leading Ladies on the Digital, Scientific, Technological and Mathematical stage.
As we look back to the future, it is vital today to recognise & celebrate women in tech, taking note of their accomplishments that began over a century ago and still continuing today. Observing the pivotal role that women played in tech history is just one way to help safeguard their place in its future.
With popular culture embracing the role women played in the history of computer science, mathematics, physics and science; Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators, the Girls Who Code initiative (supported by Michelle Obama), movies like Hidden Figures and a number of mentor-matching schemes launching in the UK (DevelopHer, Structur3d People and Freeformers), we can see progressive moves towards embracing change.
It’s people like Rebecca Parsons, who articulated her gender diversity & inclusion strategy in a recent interview, that continue to inspire and motivate us particularly on a day like today: “We’re not hiring people because they are women, we are hiring them because they are great technologists who happen to be women”.
Parallel and Leading Ladies are proud to be powerful advocates for women in tech and play a crucial role in talent acquisition and preservation strategies on a global scale. For International Women’s Day, Leading ladies and Parallel will spend today highlighting the innovative ways that women are changing the “girl code” and the companies that are providing evocative change.
WE ENVISION A FUTURE WHERE WOMEN ARE EQUALLY REPRESENTED IN THE TECH SECTOR. THIS INITIATIVE STARTS WITH YOU!
Share our insights with those tech-savvy females who you know want to shake up the world with their technological advances
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