First, let's take a look at the numbers: Even though women now earn 61.6 percent of all associate’s degrees, 56.7 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, and 58.5 percent of graduate degrees in the U.S., we're simply still in the minority in the technology industry. Only 28 percent of proprietary software jobs are held by women, 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women, and only five percent of tech startups are owned by women, according to research from Women Who Tech, an organization dedicated to helping women in the industry.
If you need a pop-culture representation of the phenomenon, look no further than HBO's show Silicon Valley. Yes it is quite funny, but the fact that the only prominent woman in the cast plays a secondary role (pictured above) is pretty depressing (especially since she seems to be the smartest of all of them).
Even though women like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki are pushing their way to the top, most women who work in the tech industry will tell you they still face daily challenges simply because they are women. From raising money to being the only female engineer, it is tough out there for a woman in tech. Bustle talked with some women working in the field to get the lowdown on the biggest hurdles women in tech face and how to deal with them. Here's what they said their biggest challenges are.
Dealing With Stereotypes
"Women are often judged by their appearance as opposed to their smarts," Jesse Draper, host of the entrepreneur and tech-focused talk show The Valley Girl Show and angel investor for female-founded companies tells Bustle. "I hate it more than anything when someone [only] tells me I looked great while I gave that speech."
Kathryn Minshew, founder of The Daily Muse, a site dedicated to helping people find jobs, tells Bustle, "There are a lot of outdated stereotypes that get in the way of some investors taking female founders as seriously as their male counterparts — for example, that women are "risk adverse" or "too nice for the cutthroat world of business."
Being Seen As Trivial
Brit Morin, founder of Brit & Co. an extensive DIY guide and e-commerce shop, says male investors often relate to her less because they view what she has to offer as as a "woman's" product. "Investors will understand it from a business strategy direction, but they don't share the same passion for it that a female investor might," Morin says. "[That said], I think if you have a solid business strategy and growth rate investors don't care. They will want to be part of the team regardless."
Minshew notes that sometimes, investors do look down on companies that are "focused on building lifestyle businesses" and that "women sometimes have to jump through a lot of extra hoops just to be taken seriously."
Straight Up Sexism
It was just this past July that Whitney Wolfe, a female former executive of Tinder, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, claiming she was ousted amid a barrage of sexist and racist comments. She said Justin Mateen, the chief marketing officer, called her a “whore” and that Sean Rad, the CEO, ignored the abuse when she complained. Is this kind of behavior common in tech? Well, that may be one extreme example, but it seems that sexism is pretty prevalent. Last year at Disrupt, a tech conference held by tech news site TechCrunch, the company had to issue a public apology acknowledging that "sexism is a major problem in the tech industry" following "two misogynistic presentations."
"My favorite comment that I have received from numerous elder men that may not necessarily be ‘blatant sexism’ (but I do find it interesting that I have never had a woman ask) is, 'Who did this for you?,'" Draper says. "My response is typically 'Did what?,' and they say something like, 'Who negotiated all of these distribution deals for you?' Or something along those lines and I say, 'I did.' And it usually goes back and forth a bit. I don’t know if it’s because of my age or that I’m a woman, but it drives me crazy when people question how I got here."
Being Judged By Their Looks
Though Marissa Mayer is a self-proclaimed fashionista (she will be chairing next year's Met Ball) because the tech industry can be so casual, it can be tough for women to convey power in their dressing. "The perception in Silicon Valley is that if you dress well, you couldn’t possibly be smart, or you’re in P.R., but couldn’t possibly run a company," Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, told The New York Times in 2012.
“I remember briefly attempting the Adidas and jeans and sweatshirt over T-shirt look, but I realized I was trying to dress like a young tech geek, and that just wasn’t me. Fashion is expressing my aesthetic sense just as much as our website is," Draper says. "I’ve had men tell me for years that I’m too girly to be in technology or I dress too frilly to be taken seriously."
Being Called "Too Emotional"
Just like there are stereotypes about women only working in fashion technology or lifestyle tech companies, there is also an expectation that they will be too emotional to work on stressful products or run their own companies. Carol Bartz, who was fired as CEO of Yahoo in 2011, was blasted for being "emotionally volatile" when she, what do you know, had a rather negative reaction to being fired and wasn't afraid to talk about it.
“It’s sad that in her first interview since the firing, she’s undermining Yahoo — putting her own raw emotions over the company she was previously entrusted to lead,” VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall, wrote at the time. Do you think this would ever be written about a man?
Being The Lone Woman
According to The Athena Factor, more than half (56 percent) of women in technology leave their employers at the mid-level point in their careers (10 to 20 years). Of the women who leave, 24 percent take a non-technical job in a different company; 22 percent become self-employed in a technical field; 20 percent take time out of the workforce; 17 percent take a government or non-profit technical job; 10 percent go to a startup company; and seven percent take a non-technical job within the same company.
According to the Department of Labor Current Population Survey, as of 2012, approximately 26 percent of women in the U.S. workforce were in 3,816,000 computing-related occupations. Women comprise only 34 percent of web developers, 23 percent of programmers, 37 percent of database administrators, 20 percent of software developers, and 15 percent of information security analysts.
"We just need more women to enter the profession. Women helping women is key. Women hiring women. Mentoring women. And more women need to invest in women. Women take significantly less risks in investing than men do, and we need women to be riskier with their money," Draper says. "I would love to see more women investing in tech startups."
Photos: HBO.com, GIFy