Shocking Facts About Tech’s Gender Gap, and What They Mean for Tech Diversity

tech gender gap

I was talking to a friend last week about how angry we felt as women. We felt cliche. We felt like underdogs. We asked ourselves, “Why?” The answer was sad. It was also compelling.

“Most men in my life are hurtful, unreliable, or sexualize me,” she said. We were referring to family and friends. More importantly, we were talking about bosses, colleagues, and CEOs. We both work in female-dominated industries and we still feel demoralized by gender biases. I can’t imagine working in the military, as a mechanic, and especially as a female in tech or science, the most infamously male-dominated industries of the 21st century. HR is still struggling to catch up to social media recruiting, so where do you think it is with gender biases? Exactly.

Here are the most shocking facts about tech’s gender gap, and why they symbolize hope.


1. Women in tech receive scathing performance reviews compared to their male counterparts.

Women are perceived as much more “abrasive” than their male counterparts.

Hackbright instructor Rachel Thomas states, “In 248 performance reviews of high-performers in tech, negative personality criticism (such as abrasive, strident, or irrational) showed up in 85% of reviews for women and just 2% of reviews for men. It is ridiculous to assume that 85% of women have personality problems and that only 2% of men do.”

2. The hiring process is skewed against women.

This redditor’s story is all-too common:

tech gender gap

The reddit member’s story is backed up by many studies, including this experiment by Yale researcher. The researcher tested two identical resumes, but one resume had “John” at the top, and one had “Jennifer.”

The article notes, “Despite having the exact same qualifications and experience as John, Jennifer was perceived as significantly less competent. As a result, Jennifer experienced a number of disadvantages that would have hindered her career advancement if she were a real applicant.”

The scientists in the study were less willing to mentor Jennifer or to hire her as a lab manager. Jennifer was also offered a lower salary, on average, $4,000 per year (13%) less than John.

3. Venture capitalists are not funding women.

Investors preferred entrepreneurial ventures pitched by a man than an identical pitch from a woman by a rate of 68% to 32% in a study conducted jointly by HBS, Wharton, and MIT Sloan. Male-narrated pitches were rated as more persuasive, logical and fact-based than were the same pitches narrated by a female voice,” writes Rachel Thomas.

Venture capitalists are simply not funding women, and when they do it’s at a low level. In a study by Babson College, only 2.7 percent of the 6,517 companies that received venture capitalist funding from 2011-2013 had women CEOs.

Today, there are an increasing number of women entrepreneurs in the United States. In general,

  • Women are majority owners of about ten million businesses, about 36% of all U.S. businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Companies with women on the executive team have an economic impact of $3 trillion annually, which translates into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs, or 16% of the total US employment.

The job market value is there, but even that trillion-dollar value cannot transcend the gender gap…yet.

Good News for Tech’s Gender Gap

Charts like the one below don’t make me feel optimistic. But, a little context goes a long way.

tech gender gap

Lisa Eadicicco, Business Insider

In 2013, Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou famously asked, “Where are the Numbers?” She demanded formal documentation for the tech gender gap we all knew existed, but was largely unvalidated by research. The very companies that had a huge shortage of female and minority engineers did not record this shortage or make their numbers available to the public.

Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook have all come clean about their gender statistics. Yes, these statistics are pathetic, quoting 10-15% of female tech workers. They are also honest, and have enabled an honest national brainstorm about how to solve tech’s gender gap.

Pipeline Solutions for Tech Diversity

  • Longer maternity leave
  • In-depth manager diversity training
  • Removing names from resumes to ensure objective candidate selection
  • Hosting an anonymous questionnaire or competition to judge candidates based on merit
  • Hire remote workers, because you will pull from a national pool of female candidates instead of a limited regional pool
  • Invest in diversity recruitment for incoming university students
  • Require tech giants to stop recruiting from big name schools alone, to create employment pathways for diverse students

When it comes down to it–even with pipeline solutions–there are countless stories of minorities in tech worried about fitting in. When developer Adria Richards gave a talk to black engineers and science majors at Stanford University, a student asked, “What happens if I get hired and I don’t listen to the same type of music [as my peers]?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if hiring managers acknowledged this hurdle head-on, upon hiring, by admitting they cannot provide cultural equality and that they acknowledge the social hurdle of being a workplace minority?

Acknowledgment is the first step. Five years ago, these solutions were under-the-radar. Now they’re at the forefront of the nationwide HR diversity dialogue.


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