Learning how to code has been one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling journeys I have embarked on. However, I would be lying if at times I feel like I didn’t belong. It could be partially due to the impending doom of imposter syndrome, or due to the overarching theme of gender bias/inequality in STEM. Gender bias can occur consciously/unconsciously, and most times we are taking part in it without even realizing that we are. I may be naive, but I don’t believe it’s as much of conscious bias deterring women from the field as much as it is lack of representation that could unconsciously deter one from pursuing. Particularly in industries like tech where it is more male dominated, dispelling these biases and encouraging more women to join the tech industry can be daunting due to having fewer female examples to help dispel it. While this didn’t fully dissuade me from pursuing this career path, the validity of not wanting to pursue something due to lack of/minimal representation still stands.
I was completely aware of this issue going into my career change and beginning my time at Flatiron. Thankfully, my peers, instructors, and the rest of the FI community has never made me feel anything other than supported and valued, but this is not the reality for a lot of women in the field. In fact, Flatiron has warped my reality of the severity of the situation because of how much slimmer the gender gap is. Upon doing some self reflection, I admitted to myself that at times, I also felt like the software engineering field would be too overwhelming or unwelcoming to me as a woman.
Now here come the cold hard facts:
- 75% of men make up the jobs in the tech industry (in the United States). 25% of women make up jobs in the tech industry — 19% are software developers, and 6% of technology leadership roles (management, etc) are held by women. To compare, 57% of women make up the workforce in the US.
- 3% of women would consider a career in tech as their first choice.
- Nearly 40% of women who obtain engineering degrees quit before ever entering the profession.
- In Silicon Valley, some of the wage gaps between men and women can be as large as 61%.
- In a StackOverflow survey, only 7% of the responses came from women, and 6% of user profiles on GitHub belong to women.
- 5% of tech start ups are owned by women.
- 56% of women leave their jobs midcareer — double the amount of the turnover of men.
In a recent study, 500 women were interviewed on what the top barriers are for them not entering the tech sector.
- 48% was due to lack of mentors.
- 42% was due to lack of female role models in the field.
- 39% was due to gender bias in the workplace.
- 36% was due to unequal opportunities.
- 35% was due to unequal pay for the same skills.
With this rate of progress, it will take until 2133 to close the gender gap.
There are many reasons as to why this is. It’s not outlandish to claim that engineering and tech has been dominated by men. Gender stigmas have for a long time pinpointed men as “smarter”, in turn steering women away. Thankfully, the community I have had at Flatiron (my peers, my instructors, and students in other cohorts) have never shown me anything other than unconditional support — having a positive and uplifting group of peers is what can help women maintain positions in the field, and have it be a meaningful experience with less turnover and hostility. A huge reason why I ended up choosing Flatiron was due to their commitment to diversity and representation.
With that being said, gender bias does not only affect women — it can affect men in fields such as nursing, education, childcare services, etc. The main difference is that there is often not seen a wide wage gap.
With all of that being said, it would be a disservice if I didn’t highlight the great improvements that are being made in order to welcome more women into the field. Google’s program Women Techmakers provides visibility, community, and resources for women in tech by offering 100 scholarships to women around the world to use towards their technical certifications. Girls Who Code is the largest pipeline of future women engineers, with 84% of alumni saying they were likely to pursue a career in tech. HackBright Academy is an engineering school for women that offers 12 week immersive software development with a median first job salary of $88,000.
While this article may seem daunting and paint a depressing picture on the prospect of women in tech, the first step to improvement is having these discussions and spreading awareness. Companies and hiring managers need to assist by being aware of these issues and striving to create a more welcoming and diverse team. A second step would be making coding more accessible for all (minorities including women, disenfranchised communities, etc). Communication, access to these resources, and community discourse can help in diversifying the tech field. It’s also important to note that all of these experiences may vary, especially if you’re a woman of color, and recognizing the privilege I have of being able to take several months away to hammer away a new school and have this channel of resources provided to me by Flatiron.
I’m eager to take this journey diving into the disparities that occur in STEM (specifically tech) surrounding gender and race, and I hope you’re willing to take that journey with me!