Where in the world are the women of the tech industry?
Males dominate tech start-ups today, but women are giving them a run for their money
by: Tom DiNardo, Staff Writer
When you think of a computer programmer, a certain stereotype comes to mind. You probably think of a young male with “bold” glasses and a dark zip-down hoodie who has been obsessed with video games since he got his first Sega Genesis… and you wouldn’t be far off.
Males dominate computer science, mathematics and engineering programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, accounting for about 70 per cent of graduates.
These numbers are reflected in the world of tech start-ups as men also dominate this profession. In Silicon Valley, tech central, only three per cent of tech companies are founded by women. If you widen the scope and look at tech start-ups in the United States, only eight per cent are led by women, according to Astia Inc. Just to clarify, those are businesses with women in managerial positions, not just companies that were started by them.
The Culture of Tech Start-ups
So what is it about the tech industry that is keeping women away? The University of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, did a study on women who were already in the tech industry who had jobs in the field but decided to quit. They found that women didn’t like tech jobs because of poor working conditions: long hours and few advancement opportunities, difficulty to balance life and work, boredom with daily tasks, and issues with coworkers. These are probably similar reasons why women don’t enter the tech industry in the first place.
Professor Barbara Orser of the University of Ottawa believes it’s because the culture of technology doesn’t appeal to women. A stereotypical tech business owner is, “masculine, aggressive and obsessive.”
When women do work in the tech industry, there is little chance they’ll quit their job to create their own company. This is because women are less likely to take risks in business, according to research done by Women Outside the Box (WOTB).
Another issue is that women who are in the tech industry have difficulty working their way up the ladder. This is mainly because they work in marketing and sales – which offer little mobility – rather than programming or hardware.
Women of the (Tech) World, Unite!
Research shows that when women are in the tech industry and work their way up to the top, they are more profitable. Companies led by women bring in 12 per cent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies, according to a report by Vivek Wadhwa and Lesa Mitchell called “Women in Technology: Evolving, Ready to Save the World.”
You might think that’s fiction until you hear the reason why. Wadhwa believes that the increase in revenue is due mainly to the increasing support of their peers. According to her research, 80 per cent of female tech entrepreneurs have mentors.
This makes sense when you think about it. Success is a hard path to navigate by yourself, especially if it’s your first foray into starting a tech company. If you have the guidance and wisdom of a businessman or woman who knows what it takes to increase profits and manage a sustainable business model, you’re more likely to outpace your male counterparts who do not have access to that sort of business savoir-faire.
Even if you’re not starting out, peer-support is essential to success. One such support group, dubbed the “Breakfast Club,” was created by Dina Kaplan, Susan Lyne, and Pat Mitchel. The group is meant to be an opportunity for women in tech and digital media companies to network, support each other, and even offer advice.