Gender based discrimination is a serious issue in modern times, being observed and experienced virtually in every field of life. The tech industry is one of the most modern and contemporary sectors in modern day business while unfortunately, issues such as sexism, sexual assault and gender-based discrimination persist in this sector as well. Human society and culture have shaped in such a way that men have been granted a more serious, responsible and authoritative role than what has been assigned for women and they usually tend to take advantage of the situation, disregarding the moral and ethical issues involved in such acts.
However, technology as a field of research and business relies on intellectual productivity, within which gender is not a significant divisor, meaning that there is a higher chance of attaining gender-based equality in tech business than other sectors. In the end, companies wishing to offer free vpn services are less likely to house sexist employees than construction firms where physical labor is required and people have a hard time dealing with pressures of fieldwork. Although generalizations are usually wrong, it would be more reasonable to expect educated people to pay more attention to this issue than uneducated ones. Either way, investigation reveals that the issue is currently being reviewed by both the industry workers and the media, showing how aware people have become over time regarding gender inequality and how ambitious they are to address and tackle the issue.
From an unbiased perspective, it is important to ask the question, ‘why are there so few women in tech?’ to initiate a reasonable discussion. Currently, 40% of men with degrees in science and engineering find employment in respective fields of work whereas only 26% of women with such degrees are capable of doing the same thing. In addition, most women do not even apply to such positions, worrying that they will never get accepted in the first place. According to a study by Allison Wynn of Stanford University, they are justified in having such a prejudice as most of the interviews conducted for recruitment are completely biased against female candidates. Companies usually send straightforward and uncaring employees to such interviews, who pay no attention to the needs and expectations of female candidates whatsoever. In addition, “sexist jokes and imagery [and] geeky references” always exist in such interviews and therefore women are discouraged from showing their intellect and capabilities to the fullest extent. As a result, only 22% of such women end up referring to technical issues during interviews, which means that the follow-up sessions are dominated by male candidates, leading the current recruitment methodology to contribute to gender inequality from the very beginning of the process.
Naturally, discrimination knows no boundaries and quickly stretches into other domains, such as race. Although 80% of all the small businesses operated by women are owned by women of color, for tech industry the same statistic reads only 4%, while the lack of specific data makes it harder to reach conclusions regarding the reasons for such a small share. Similarly, for employment, a similar situation is observed with the majority of tech-industry workers being male while female workers are currently earning 10% less than their male counter peers. With respect to leadership positions, African-American and Hispanic women make up less than 0.5% and 1% each. Silicon Valley is notoriously famous for such discrimination as well, with only 2% of the industry’s employees being women, while the same number in European labor markets is around 12%. For the venture capitalist market, white women as entrepreneurs and investors comprise 11% of the overall scene, African-American women comprising only 1% and Hispanic women not existing within the statistics at all. Not surprisingly, the situation in America is nation-wide and not local-specific, showing how the entire nation is plagued by the social disease that is hindering progress in the industry as a whole.
Tech business became so centralized and dominant that even politicians require tech teams to carry out successful campaigns. Carrie Villines found the opportunity to work for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign as a Front-end Software Engineer. The Clinton crew is especially interested in technical stuff, spending a lot of time on websites and blogs as well as “storytelling and rapid response microsites,” seeking to utilize public opinion to their best interest. Villines was also the head of the team working directly with Hillary Clinton’s site utilizing technologies such as WordPress, Node.js, React and NuclearJS to update and protect the candidate’s website. Meanwhile, another team would be working for “building software to streamline fundraising and increase voter engagement and turnout,” with the smartphone application team developing new content and software to “engage and mobilize supporters.” Villines especially notes that in her teams there was a female CTO and 40% of all employees were women, making the team “the most diverse team [she’s] ever worked on.” She also described her team as passionate and dedicated people coming from all backgrounds and therefore her experience during the campaign was enlightening to say the least, proving once again how destructive and regressive discrimination is at the workplace, gender based or otherwise.
Sexual assault is also a common theme in the tech business and several women have come out throughout the years to share their stories/experiences with the world. Cecilia Pagkalinawan is one of such women who encountered a case of sexual assault when meeting with a Silicon Valley executive who tried to get her drunk to take advantage of her. Luckily, she woke up and asked to go to the toilet to throw up and call a friend to pick her up. As the news about such issues get around, the industry is shaking to its roots with powerful Silicon Valley names such as Dave McClure of 500 Startups and Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital resigning from their positions as investors after such claims and the pursuing legal action. A similar scenario took place with Bea Arthur as she was meeting with an investor over financial problems, when the man simply pulled out his erect penis to show it to Arthur in hopes of initiating sexual intercourse. In the Silicon Valley, 89% of all the decision makers for investment are men while female-founded startups receive more than $1.5 billion annually, meaning that a lot of women get to go through intimate relations with such male executives. Since no regulatory authority exists above these people, they resort to inconsiderate behavior, out of ego, interest or god knows what. As a result, a lot of these gentlemen tend to take advantage of such powerful positions, which leads to legal sexual assault cases: quite a worrying reality indeed.
However, not all is lost in the industry as there are several successful women who have resisted against the tides and are currently using the tech industry for good. Jude Ower is one of such individuals who developed the ‘Playmob’ system: a platform that links games with social conscience. Having spent her entire childhood playing video games, Ower then spent 12 years in the gaming industry until she came up with a great idea following Zynga’s campaign to raise funds for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake: to connect games with social causes. Zynga’s campaign raised over $1 million in a few days and Ower initiated her negotiations with game developers soon after, trying to convince them about implementing ads in their content related to charity. In such advertisements, the players are provided with links to visit and donate money through secure systems and so far, “the campaigns have helped more than 3,000 teenagers receive counselling for cyber-bullying, provided protection for 31 pandas, and secured education for 8,500 children in Africa and Asia.” According to the entrepreneur, her position and role as a woman in this context did not hinder her plans and even helped her develop a more personal relationship with her clients, leading to higher engagement and success rates for such ad campaigns. Today, the system still is one of the top earners of its kind in the industry, satisfying not only the corporate interests of game developers but also the demands of charities and those who depend on them.