Women in Tech

Women in Tech

We’ve all heard the headlines: there aren’t enough women in tech! An employee at Google releases a memo “explaining” the “insurmountable biological differences” between men and women; he is promptly fired. There’s no doubt that there’s a disproportionate number of men in tech, and that those men tend to be in higher paying jobs. We obviously want to rectify that imbalance, not just because it’s the moral thing to do, but because having a diversified workplace can lead to better outcomes for both employees and consumers. We should, however, tread cautiously as we proceed, so as not to integrate women in a flawed way.

One of the hidden factors about “women in tech” is “women who are tech adjacent”; that is to say, these women work in tech fields, but have no knowledge of coding. That’s particularly problematic, because when you look at companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, you’ll find that their founders all had a deep understanding of code; like architects, they planned out their websites and built them from the ground up. We need an influx of women who are able to code; a Women in Business speaker we work with at Talent Bureau, Melissa Sariffodeen, recognized this need and created Ladies Learning Code (later grouped into her new enterprise, Canada Learning Code). The more women who know code, the more prominent women will be in the tech industry.

Women learning code isn’t quite enough, though. Consider this: women were omnipresent during the founding of computing. Ada Lovelace is cited by some as the first computer programmer, as she created the first algorithm for a computing machine. Now, even women who can code are often “relegated” to front-end design, that is to say, the design that the user interacts with, while men will often do the “back-end”, things like Google’s search algorithm. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this might be the case, but most of it looks something like this: in the 1970s, men realized that computing was where the money was at. Once you know where the money is, social stratification causes problems: men in power give “important” jobs to other men and “less important” jobs to women, where “important” in fact means “high paying”. Programming began to find itself relegated behind the walls of a multi-year university education, even though you can learn to code using web courses.

This is one of the oddest social stratifications we’ve seen in the past century, and the result of it is that women, the first programmers, are now often relegated to lower-paying jobs. Geek culture became male dominated (just ask any gal who games), and the world of programming and computers became unfriendly and even hostile to women. Women learning to code is a huge step towards equality, but what is truly needed is a sea change: your gender does not dictate your competence, and should not dictate your pay scale.