Despite the fact that it is 2016, nearly every industry has its problems in terms of being able to acknowledge and address issues of diversity. However, in none do such issues make the headlines as often as they do in the tech industry.
The statistics are damning: just 30 percent of employees in the US tech industry are women, with a recent report from Deloitte Global predicting that less than a quarter of IT jobs in developed countries will be held by women by the end of 2016; while the number of IT jobs has grown, the ratio of women working in the space has failed to keep up.
The number of women working one of the five million IT jobs in the US fell from 25 percent to 24 percent across 2010 to 2014, while the number of women working in IT in the UK grew from 17 percent to just 18 percent from 2010 to 2015.
Education was put forward as one of the main reasons for these dismal numbers. Only 18 percent of computer science graduates in the US in 2013 were women, while the University of Waterloo, the best known computer science university in Canada, reported that women made up just 13 percent of its 2010 enrollment in computer science.
Harassment faced by women working in the space is another important factor contributing to the low numbers. Earlier this year, a group of women released a project entitled Elephant in the Valley, a survey of over 200 women who have worked in tech for almost 10 years which aims to educate people about the various instances of sexism faced by women in tech.
Almost 60 percent of the women surveyed reported feeling they had not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts, while 90 percent said they had witnessed sexist behaviour at company offsites or industry conferences. 60 percent of respondents reported unwanted sexual advances, while 87 percent said they had received demeaning comments from male colleagues.
The situation for women in tech in 2016 is particularly sad because it wasn’t always this way. In fact, author of The Innovators, Walter Isaacson, has stated that Ada Lovelace was “the world’s first computer programmer”, while the majority of programmers during World War II were women who assembled and programmed the first electronic computers.
It was some time around the 1980s that the number of women studying computer science began to drop and the stereotype of the white, nerdy, young male coder began to dominate.
However, women have begun to push back. The number of female tech startup founders in Australia is growing, with the 2015 Startup Muster survey finding that 24 percent of founders are female, up from 19 percent the year before.
These women are flourishing thanks to new female-focused initiatives such as Springboard Enterprises, Inspiring Rare Birds, and Forming Circles Global, programs which aim to encourage, support, and invest in women in tech.
These initiatives are supported by programs aimed at getting young girls interested in technology and entrepreneurship. Programs such as Code Club and Girls in Tech are key to boosting the number of women in the space further on down the track and, thankfully, they are growing faster than ever.
Join in the discussion about this topic and more at Pause Fest 2016.
Pause Fest 2016 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th – 14th of February 2016. Tickets can be purchased here.
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