The Gender Gap in Technology

It’s hard to believe, but the gender gap in technology is still very real, and very large.

Fact: 35% of computing jobs in the U.S. were held by women in 1990.  In 2013, that number fell to 26%.

Fact: Women rule social media networks.  55% of both Twitter and Facebook users are women.

Fact: Women make up a large part of the gaming network, a contradiction to stereotyped images of a gamer being a teenage boy.

Although women are the main consumers of online platforms, they continue to be severely underrepresented in the technological workforce. Women only make up:

  • 28% of proprietary software jobs

  • A quarter of IT jobs

  • 11% of executives at Fortune 500 companies

  • 5% of tech start up owners

Not all hope is lost, however.

Fact: Women are starting businesses at a rate of 1.5 times the national average, a 20% increase over the last decade.

Fact: Women-operated, venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues than those operated by men.

All of this comes in spite of the fact that women entrepreneurs begin with approximately 1/8 of the funding that male entrepreneurs receive.

Although it’s comforting to see more women taking a stance in the STEM world, why does this gap exist in the first place?

  • A lack of existing female role models in STEM fields.  As Jocelyn Goldfein, a director of engineering at Facebook remarked, “The reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is because there aren’t more women computer scientists.”  A lack of female role models dissuades young women from pursuing important roles in technology, even though they are equally, if not more qualified, than their male counterparts.

  • An unconscious bias that math and science are “male fields.”  The perception that math and science are for boys only results in very few women being encouraged to pursue degrees in computer science.  Although female graduates hold 60% of all bachelor degrees, they earn less than 20% of bachelor degrees in computer science.

  • Popular culture.  Often on TV shows and other forms of widespread media, the typical programmer or computer scientist is portrayed as “the geeky man.”  In the rare moments that the media chooses to talk about women in powerful positions, both in and out of STEM, the focus lies on their appearance rather than their accomplishments. (If you’d like to learn more about how this happens, watch Miss Representation, produced by Jennifer Siebel in 2011)

How do we combat these issues?

We need to teach young girls that their gender does not limit their abilities.  We need to teach young boys the importance of equality and respect for their female counterparts.  We need to teach women in the workplace that it’s okay to be the first and it’s important to break barriers.  We need to teach men in the workplace that work equality is a right, not a privilege.

We all need a fundamental shift in attitude.  This nation cannot move forward if half of us are being held back.


Further Reading: