Monday, January 19, 2015

Statistics Show Computer Science Really is a Boys' Club

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the lack of women in STEM professions and in particular computer sciences. Google, after a lot of public media pressure, released a blog post with a breakdown of the company’s workforce. The results regarding the gender gap was unsurprising in that the female percentage of the workforce was significantly lower than the male.

In fact, it was found that out of Google’s 46,170 employees only 30 percent of them are female, only 21 percent of leadership positions in Google are held by women. The lowest percentage, predictably, was found in the tech sector where females hold only 17 percent of the jobs.

The problem is not just at Google as the table below shows Google and nine other large technology companies who released data after Google, showing the percentages of females working their companies.

Company
% of female employees
% of female employees in tech jobs
% of female employees in non-tech jobs
% of females in leadership positions
Google
30%
17%
48%
21%
Apple
30%
20%
35%
28%
Facebook
31%
15%
47%
23%
Twitter
30%
10%
50%
21%
Yahoo
37%
15%
52%
23%
LinkedIn
39%
17%
47%
25%
Pandora
49.2%
18%
57.8%
14%
Pinterest
40%
20%
66%
19%
eBay
42%
24%
49%
28%
HP
32.5%
18.4%
48.7%
25.6%

All data given in 2014 apart from HP which is from 2013.

Only three out of 10 of the world’s leading technology firms scrape 20 percent with eBay the highest on 24 percent. It shows that in other aspects of the company, percentages of people in non-tech fields are pretty equal, so why is there such a dramatic difference in tech?

One issue is something again that can be seen from the table; female leader numbers in the above companies are very low, which provides a lack of role models for aspiring female tech professionals. It is very difficult for women to get into managerial positions as the top firms are dominated by what the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller describes as ‘a fraternity of chummy men.’ She states that there is a ‘sexist culture’ amongst companies in Silicon Valley. The females that work there are isolated and in some cases have been found to be harassed. A group of women working at major tech firms came out and stated that they were ‘harassed on mailing lists and called ‘whore/c—t’’ and received ‘creepy e-mails’ that haven’t been dealt with by higher powers. The ‘fraternity of chummy men’ may not be too far off the mark as many of the top firms will hire from only top schools where again, STEM courses such as computer science will be dominated by male students and teachers (14 percent of US physics professors are female); again a potentially off-putting statistic for young female scientists. 

Creating a more female inclusive tech world will not happen overnight; however steps are slowly being made. For example, many of the companies mentioned have set up initiatives and groups for their minority employees such as the Pandora Women in Business scheme. In fact, Columbia University has a group that brings together female computer science students to help expand their opportunities and provide direction. Initiatives like this will encourage more females to study computer science and by having more equal college gender ratios then the stigma of computer science being a boys club may start to fade out. I believe because these areas of study are dominated by men, when they then progress into companies also dominated by males and it becomes a culture. If computer science is seen as a unisex area of study from a younger age then it will eventually filter into the workplace too. 


About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com.

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