Why is the presence of women important in the tech industry?

by Sherry Stanczyk

Sean O’ Riain’s article on the tech community, “High Tech Communities: Better Work or Just More Work,” examines and criticizes several aspects of the industry’s work model, which include instability, lack of job security, and excessive working hours. He also criticizes the fact that the tech community can be very exclusive towards certain demographics; namely, women. As O’ Riain points out, the “individualistic [and] macho imagery” that is widespread amongst the community, combined with the before-mentioned long and unpredictable working hours, make the industry a difficult place for women to both enter and succeed in.

The tech industry, like the political arena, is a field in which women make up only a small percentage of the community, especially in significant roles such as in leadership and management. In America women only make up less than a quarter of the jobs in the science and technology industries–this figure being relatively consistent around the globe. These numbers, as well as the current attitude towards women in the tech industry can be seen in the major tech companies operating today. In the recent news, companies such as Facebook have been facing criticism for not including any women on their boards or in the upper circles of management, while Google has admitted that their number of female tech employees has been increasingly shrinking. Yahoo’s new female CEO Marissa Mayer has also been the subject of media attention, as many have been finding it difficult to wrap their heads around the idea of a pregnant woman working as CEO for a large internet corporation.

So why is it so important that more women are able to enter and succeed in the technology industry? Belinda Parmar argues that it is beneficial to the industry to hire more women, as women comprise a large percentage of the users of social media and of the consumers of electronic gadgets, having a more female input into product design and functionality will help further draw in and expand the demand of female consumers. Her point is a compelling and practical one, and also likely has a lot of truth behind it. However, as financially beneficial as using the creative output of women may be, the most important reason more women need to be in the industry is because it is important for women to be involved with an industry whose influence is vast and far reaching; technology such as the internet, software, and electronics are increasingly playing more and more of a vital role in connecting the world and shaping the way everything from business and politics to everyday life. Excluding women from the creation and ownership of these technologies also excludes women from exerting influence and control over global affairs and their own lives.

There is no easy answer to decide how to make this change happen; one consideration is to follow Google’s example, and actively try to include women during the hiring process. Other considerations could be introducing fairer working hours, offering more female led mentorship and support for women working in the industry, and introducing young females to the idea of working in tech from a younger age.

References:

O’Riain Sean. “High Tech Communities: Better Work or Just More Work?” Contexts, Fall/Winter 2002.

Parmar, Belinda. “Viewpoint: More Women Needed in Technology” BBC News. Oct. 11, 2012.

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