The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
It’s no secret that tech companies struggle – abysmally, even – with diversity in the workplace. Fewer than 30% of all tech jobs are held by women, a number that decreases the higher up the corporate ladder you go. And in an industry that prides itself on unbiased, analytical decisions and data-driven results, that’s a problem.
Case study: Etsy
Until recently, online craft retailer Etsy had a similar problem to Pandora. In 2011, women made up nearly 50% of the company’s staff – but there were only 3 women on its team of 47 engineers. Etsy decided to do something about it, but it wasn’t quite as easy as they thought. After committing to improving their numbers, Etsy’s gender diversity actually declined by 35%.
Since its initial failure, though, Etsy has become an industry champion for gender diversity. The company developed grants targeted specifically at women participants in its Hacker School, a program for young engineers. Since the grants went into effect, female participation in Hacker School has skyrocketed. And since 2011, the company has hired 20 more women engineers – a growth of 400%. Though Etsy isn’t yet at an even ratio, they’re taking steps in the right direction.
Getting the government involved
Gender diversity in technology is an issue that hasn’t escaped the notice of the federal government, either. The White House’s Women in STEM program, launched in 2011, is designed to support women as they pursue positions in science, technology, engineering and math. The reason? Although getting more women involved in STEM is critical for gender equality, it’s also critical for economic equality. Women who work in STEM fields earn, on average, 33% more than their counterparts in other fields, and they experience a smaller wage gap relative to men.
Recruiting targeted towards women
Another way companies are making an effort to hire more women in STEM? Conferences and recruiting events for women. For example, the annual Grace Hopper Celebration in Phoenix gives women in technology the opportunity to come together, hear industry leaders speak and see their peers receive awards. Though these events and their speakers sometimes miss the mark (Satya Nadella, anyone?), they do allow tech companies like Google and Facebook to meet and recruit leading women in the field.
Another example? Coding schools or hackathons. During Hackbright Academy‘s women-focused Recruitment Days event, Silicon Valley companies can connect with and recruit highly skilled women in technology.
Are tech companies doing enough?
Tech companies are doing something when it comes to improving gender diversity in STEM. But are they doing enough? In a word, no.
The fact that tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook are starting to recognize – and publicize – STEM’s staggering gender gap is a step in the right direction. But the fact that the vast majority of tech jobs are still held by men mean that they have a long way to go. Women represent more than 50% of the workforce. Until we represent at least 50% of jobs in STEM, I won’t be convinced that tech companies are doing enough.