Code it, girl: Why the gender gap in tech?


Women still hold only about 25 percent of information technology (IT) jobs in the developed world and that number hasn’t budged much lately. For our series on Women in Tech, we’ll explore the trends and talk to our CEO Debbie Taylor and other women in tech about attracting gals to the field.

First, the landscape:

1.  Women and girls are still opting away from computer science courses – Only 18% of U.S. university computer science graduates in 2013 were women. This is down from 37% in 1985. That percentage aligns with the mere 18% of female high school students taking the AP exam for computer science in 2013.

It may be that parents or educators aren’t doing enough to encourage girls to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses.

2.  Men in IT get hired ahead of equally qualified women – Studies show that both men and women are twice as likely to hire a man for an IT job over an equally qualified woman. Unconscious gender bias may be driving this pattern.

To course correct, many companies are running bias training initiatives. But even factors like gender specific styles of creating CVs can negatively impact female candidates.

3.   Women leave IT jobs at a higher rate – According to a 2014 study, women in IT roles are 45 percent more likely than men to leave in their first year. A hostile or sexist “brogrammer” culture could create an uncomfortable and/or sexist work environment.

A workplace culture featuring marathon coding sessions and lack of adequate maternity leave and childcare all may also play a role.

4.  Pay gap or position gap? Either way, annoying – A gender pay gap persists but some say it’s actually better in tech than other fields. As the experts bat around the data on that, some have observed that women in tech also take on different roles than men, which can lead to lower pay.

Classic coding, architecture and development jobs tend to pay more and are male dominated while women choose more of the administrative or communications-driven jobs in the sector, according to lead economist for PayScale, Katie Bardaro.  

“There’s a lack of flexibility in some of the . . . programming and coding jobs,” Bardaro said. “Many of these jobs require 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, on-call availability that, if you have a family, if you’re juggling other responsibilities as women usually are, they can’t accommodate. So, it’s not a wage gap that’s the problem, it’s a jobs gap,” Bardaro said.

While those trends may sound daunting to women with tech aspirations, they aren’t the whole story.

CloudBase Services CEO Debbie Taylor thinks the field could benefit from women.

“I hope word is getting out to girls and young women that there are ways they’re highly suited to this work,” Taylor explained.

We’ll explore her thoughts and those of other women in part two, next week. Thanks and stay tuned.