Ladies and Gents, the Pipeline Is Not the Problem: #WomenInTech

From underrepresented to overrepresented, the composition of tech workers has changed. With more women entering these fields and filling up STEM-related positions, we can’t stop there. There’s an exciting future for career growth in this field that many are already taking advantage of today.

The “women in tech” is a trending topic that has been growing for a long time. Because of this, there are many articles and videos about the subject.

Women aren’t lured to tech-industry careers, according to popular belief, since they aren’t given enough support in math and science subjects in school. Within this prevailing paradigm, it is expected that the diversity issue will be solved when more women enroll in scientific and engineering degrees.

No, it isn’t going to happen. At least not while we’re persuaded that the pipeline is the source of the issue. At least in most industrialized nations, the pipeline — the path from STEM study in university to a profession — is functioning rather well.

Recent surveys suggest that in the United States, high school girls and boys take similar numbers of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) electives, while Stanford and Berkeley both state that half of their introductory computer science students are female. We’ve arrived, and our numbers are increasing, at least at this point in the process. Men, on the other hand, are employed in STEM jobs at double the rate of women with identical credentials, according to the US Census Bureau.

Some publications also use figures such as “Women make up just 26% of the computing workforce, and only 18% of undergraduate computer science degree holders,” which conveniently excludes all of the non-engineering occupations in which women labor in great numbers. When you look at the big picture of IT jobs, it’s clear that there’s a retention issue, not a pipeline one.

Women are abandoning their studies.

It’s much too simplistic to assume that women quit computer careers because they have children. In her Fortune magazine article “Why women quit tech: It’s the culture, not because’math is hard,’” Kieran Snyder shares her results from interviews with 716 women who left the industry, 625 of them stated they would never return. Only 22 (3%) answered they would want to. It wasn’t the nature of the employment or the fact that some of them had children that pushed them away. Snyder claims that virtually everyone she met with appreciated their job, but not the setting in which they did it.

This is why pieces like the Guardian’s “Silicon Valley is hip and strong,” are so popular. “However, where are the ladies?” It irritates me. “Why are there so few women in technology?” is a question that is commonly posed. “Where does the issue begin?” Don’t even get me started on the folks who say things like, “Oh, if only there were more women!” To which I respond, “You would if you treated us better.”

When I questioned women in tech-related industries about their experiences, I made sure to construct the question in such a way that it encouraged both good and negative responses. In my industry, I’ve had largely favorable interactions with males (growth hacking, customer success and inbound marketing). Men like Lincoln Murphy and Jim Gray have been incredible mentors to me, and I can’t leave this subject without mentioning that there are a lot of really kind individuals out there who want to help women like me succeed in IT. And I’m not the only one.

However, as Joanna Wiebe, creator of Copyhackers, pointed out, it’s a sad statement that we need these men:

Then Wiebe told three of the saddest tales I’ve ever heard.

Last year, at a conference dinner, a speaker – a well-known figure – informed me that women had lesser brains than males and, as science has demonstrated, are just not capable of what men are capable of. This individual speaks in front of groups of people and has an impact on them. And he shouted that right in front of my face. Why wouldn’t he, though? My naive mind would have no idea how to feel upset. It’s just a lovely little pink fluff-filled brain.

My boss at a large software firm told me he didn’t enjoy working for women since he’d previously worked for a female CEO who “everyone felt was such a bitch.” At the time, his manager was a woman. I used to be a woman. (And I’m still doing it.) And he’d obviously never worked for a guy CEO who held his employees to higher standards and, like, expected more from them. Men are the bosses, and women are the scumbags.

After I gave a talk at a conference, a lady approached me and advised me to “play to my strength,” which she defined as “you’re pretty.” To talk, I’d put on a dress, thus I believe dressing like a lady was my first blunder. When you’re wearing a skirt, no amount of info on the screen matters.

Other women I met with didn’t want their identities revealed because they were afraid of reaction, but they were eager to tell their tales. Lauren S., an SEO tech professional, for example, expressed a more nuanced aspect of the problem that so many of us deal with on a daily basis:

My job as a lead tech for our company’s major brand doesn’t come with any authority or respect from my boss or other coworkers. Despite the fact that I am one of three SEO Technical Specialists who have worked here for over two years, I am virtually never consulted, listened to for analytical input/info, and have to yell (apparently) twice as loud for my successes to be recognized.

Even though I’ve worked my way up from associate to mid-level (almost senior level now), when HTML concerns or basic website modifications come up, I’m typically brushed off or disregarded if I step in to give my expertise (since by this stage, I usually know the solution to the problem).

My boss called me down in December of last year to tell me that he had talked to other employees of the SEO department, and several of them had informed him that I come off as condescending and a “know it all.” In our department, it’s normal practice to join in on chats or assist someone with a website/HTML/technical problem. I normally only become involved when I believe I can aid or assist, which many of my colleagues do on a regular basis (all male).

The most aggravating aspect of it all has been the notion that no matter how hard I work or how many times I demonstrate my worth, I will never be considered seriously as a leader in my department or area.

She intends to leave this company in the next several weeks.

V, an entrepreneur and inbound marketing specialist, requested anonymity since her experience occurred “too recently.”

My company’s male co-founder insisted that he had the necessary expertise for our project whereas I lacked it. So whenever I recommended anything (something I had prior expertise with), he insisted on seeing the statistics. And if I questioned him, he’d simply say something about “experience.”

I believe that many men actually believe that they are superior to women, and that we should surrender to their wisdom and understanding of the computer world.”

I’ve long supported males in my field because I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with so many who have praised my efforts and who have answered the phone to assist me solve an issue that would have cost their paying customers $1,000 per hour. But, more lately, I’ve recognized that, apart from gender prejudice, I’ve also faced workplace injustices that I can’t explain, such as being paid the same as people I was expected to train.

As aggravating as it is to be a woman in the computer business, there is another group that faces even more prejudice and difficulties. Women from underrepresented groups. In a 2015 investigation by the University of California Hastings College of the Law, all 60 African-American and Latina scientists questioned indicated they had faced prejudice. More than 75 percent of the 500 women of color who answered to the online poll felt they had to prove their ability repeatedly. Many people told experiences of being mistaken for janitors.

While the suggested remedies to the “pipeline issue” are relatively basic and government-backed, there is no simple way for achieving the large-scale cultural transformation required for women to be treated equally and respected in technical professions.

One aspect of the answer might be males in positions of power and influence assisting women in gaining their own power and influence. But it’s up to us after that. Workplaces that are supportive of women must be created. We need to find firms that have reasonable maternity leave policies and childcare practices. We need to treat other women with the respect — and remuneration — that they deserve for their experience, knowledge, and abilities.

We must address what occurs after women are in the pipeline.

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