Silicon Valley’s Women Problem

 

Women now represent nearly half of America’s workforce. However, considerable gender inequality persists. For instance, women hold just 25 percent of the computer science jobs in America. Ironically, the computer science was once considered a woman’s arena.

From Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, to Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, who created the first compiler for a computer programming language, women have been responsible for many of computer science’s most significant achievements.

However, since the 1980s, the share of women entering the field steadily declined.

The percentage of computer science degrees earned by women has fallen sharply, from 38 percent in 1987 to 18 percent today.

Home computers became common during the 1980s, which correlates ironically with the decline of women in computer science. Early personal computers were marketed as toys aimed at boys. As a result, parents bought them primarily for their sons – thus the notion that programming and coding were largely male pursuits.

This cultural mentality discouraged girls from computer programming and has led to what some call an “experience gap” between men and women.

Men tended to begin their studies with more familiarity regarding computer programming and other computer science-related matters.

The hostility that women at tech companies often face while navigating a male-dominated culture has also contributed to the decline.

The reality of gender bias against female workers has been further confirmed by the findings of the 2015 survey of women in Silicon Valley tech companies, entitled “The Elephant in the Valley.” It found nearly 9 in 10 women reported receiving demeaning comments from male colleagues, while 59 percent felt that they did not have the same opportunities as men.

Six out of 10 women in tech said that they have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances at their jobs. And to this, women in tech are less likely to advance within their companies, and it is not surprising that their quit rate is twice as high as it is for men.

What can be done?

Offering more classes in computing at the middle school level, and making certain computer-science courses are a requirement in high school, would better prepare girls for a major in computer science.

Also, drawing more women into computer science could lead to significant economic growth among women, and would help alleviate the troubling gender-pay gap in America.

Ragahavan Mayur is the president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, and directs the Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Poll.  Tom Westervelt is a TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence research analyst.

The article appeared in the September 2007 edition of the Newsmax magazine.

 

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