As tech industry is rapidly growing, the demand of engineers and programmers has dramatically increased. To compete with other companies for talented engineers and programmers, many tech companies are offering high salary and benefits to their employees. This attracts many students studying computer science. For example, University of California’s computer science program, which is ranked as top 10 nationwide in US News, has seen 174 percent increase in its key lower division computer science courses’ enrollment, including CS10, the CS61 series, and CS70, from 2008 to 2013 based on the common good curriculum report released by UC Berkeley Office of Planning and Analysis in 2013. Despite the increase of interest in computer science among college students, female students who graduating with computer science degree remain at a low level. According to the data from National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of women who graduated with computer science degree peaked at 37.1 percent in 1983-84. Since then, women’s ratio has gradually decreased. In 2010-11, only 17.6 percent of students who graduated with computer science degree are women.
Why There Are Less Women Choosing Computer Science?
Tech jobs have been well-known for their high salary level and compensation for their employees. As Kim Malone mentioned in her novel “Virtual Love”, which is based on her working experience at Google as a manager, Google has provided consummate facilities for its employees, including free meals and integral facilities like sauna and heated toilet seats. Although tech companies has offered many benefits to its employee, women are unwilling to get into the industry due to prejudice against women and intense working environments.
1. Myth that women are good at emphasizing jobs
In the science book “The Essential Difference” written by Cambridge psychologist and autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, he suggests that a systematic type brain (type S brain), the drive to analyze, explore, and construct a system, was adaptive for ancestral men and an emphasizing type brain (type E brain), drive to identify another person’s emotions and thoughts, was adaptive for ancestral women (Kanazawa & Miller, 2007). Historically, there is a perception that men are responsible for financial stability of the whole family. Therefore, men need to exert their ability to maximize the resource for the family. The accumulation of problem solving experience has enhanced male’s systematizing ability. There is another perception that women need to stay home and take care of children. Women need to facilitate various aspects of mothering and these experiences have enhanced female’s emphasizing skill.
This fogyish idea has generalized that jobs that required high systematic skill or physical strength, like engineers and construction workers, are suited for men and jobs that require high emphasizing skill, like nurses and teachers, are suited for women. This results in unbalanced gender distribution in certain jobs because people would be less comfortable to enter the industry that they believed it is more difficult for them to succeed. Therefore, women have confidence to get into the tech industry and they would rather choose to work in industry that requires more emphasizing skill.
2. Female Discrimination (Brogrammer Culture)
Furthermore, this gender stereotype has led to discrimination towards women in the workplace, especially in male dominated industry, such as tech industry. In one of the survey conducted by Joan William, she discovered that nearly three-fourths of the women in her interview group reported tightrope issues, where these women are being seen as too feminine to be effective or too masculine to be likable. Therefore, some of them are assigned to do basic tasks even though they are capable of handling more difficult one. They are afraid to turn down the assigned work because they want to be team players and this shows their respect towards others. Even though some men and women tried to protest these actions, they ended up getting fired or bullied by the teams into leaving. In the research paper from Belle Derks, he reveals that women who encounter discrimination early in their careers tend to refuse to help other women who face discrimination. They even joined with male to discriminate other women. Facing a tough working situation, many female resign and this reduces number of talented women the tech industry.
3. Intense Working Environment and Long Working Hours
In general, most tech companies require programmers to work overtime. Long working hours culture drives some women, who want to have children, out of the tech industry because they are unable to allocate time between family and work. As one woman tells Joan Williams in the interview, “Women…29, 30…were hitting the glass ceiling that I’ve been hitting for a long time. And if they could [afford to]…, they would just start having babies and drop out because they wanted to have kids anyway, and it’s hard to show up every day and fight and fight and fight.” Some companies allow flexible hours and remote working arrangements, and some tech companies like Google, even provide free child care service for mothers so that they can focus on work. Despite that, mothers still face judgement from their colleagues. According to this research by Stephen Benard and Shelley Correll, they discovered that women, who left their children for work, are considered as bad mothers. As a result, women are detested by the male and expected to have higher performance standards. Stressful working environment and peer pressure make many women leaving the tech industry and look for less stressful jobs.
Women Are Important In the Tech Industry
Actually, tech industry requires not only systematic but also emphasizing skills. Many programming projects are working as team, cooperation is essential to finish the project on time. At that case, having a leader with high emphasizing skills is extremely important. In science book “The Essential Difference”, Simon Baron also suggested that sex distributions of systemizing and empathizing skills substantially overlap. This means men on average are better at systemizing and women on average are better at empathizing, there are many men who are better empathizers than women and many women who are better systemizes than men. Many women have capability to handle complex jobs that require high emphasizing and systematic skills in the tech industry. For example, many top tech companies are led by successful female figures, like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty. These successful example proves that women can handle the work but prejudice has hurt the development of the tech industry by preventing potential candidate from entering the industry.
Having more women in the tech industries is beneficial to the industry. This not only reduces the gender gap in the tech industry but also attracts more talented women into the industry. Many tech companies is trying to solve this issue by employing more women. In my opinion, this does not fully dissolve the gender inequality in the tech industry because discrimination in the workplace is are the main reason for women to leave the industry. In order to eliminate the prejudice, tech executives should change the working environment, like setting a female project group, so discrimination would be less likely to happen. At the same time, female project group proves women’s ability on handling complex jobs. Fully eliminating discrimination in the tech industry require lots of time and resource; therefore, each tech company’s contribution is critical for achieving the goal.