Shifting the Gender Gap: How to Support Women in Tech

Becky Priebe is an Experience Designer with 15+ years of practice in tech. From startups to Microsoft and Designer to C-level positions, she’s seen it all. Over her years in the industry, Becky has grown frustrated with the lack of inclusivity in the tech scene which has driven her to write what she calls a “user manual on how to build the right society in technology.” Becky champions utilizing your peers, regardless of their gender, to create more conversation and awareness around building an environment that is inclusive and welcoming.

When it comes to the gender gap, how has the tech industry changed?

Historically, men have dominated the world of tech, taking on all technology-related roles from entry-level to senior positions. Now, while men still rule the tech industry, women are actively seeking to increase their representation. In 2018, over 50% of women pursued Computer Science/STEM focused degrees, and that number rose to over 75% with younger students. Additionally, Gen Z (typically cited as anyone born from the mid-1990s to early 2000s) is the first generation to grow up side-by-side with technology and approximately 30% of Gen Z women learned to code before 16.

“In most of the companies that I've worked for, I’m either the only woman, one of 2-3 women, or the women that do work there are in a role that was considered ‘a woman's role.’" -Becky Priebe
While the number of women in tech is growing, there is still a long way to go. And, while many tech giants cite their intent to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, the numbers only move incrementally each year. According to the 2018 Diversity Report, leading tech mogul, Apple, reports that only 33% of their employees are women. Even further, according to Silicon Valley Bank, only half of tech startups have a woman on their executive team, and fewer still have a woman on the board of directors.

Women who are in leadership roles are more likely to have a technical title in companies founded by women, whereas C-Level titles given to women in male-founded startups are often related to HR, finance, and marketing. Outside of startups, regardless of age, more women are in junior positions than men. This is despite the fact that many have learned in-demand languages like Java and C in an effort to be more marketable.

So, what can companies do to decrease the gender gap in tech?

Hire women. In reality, the first step to closing the gender gap requires hiring more women into tech-forward roles (both junior level and leadership positions) and providing them with the opportunities to grow. Research has shown that when it comes to selecting a role, women are influenced by access to professional development and clear expectations of their position – women are less likely to apply for a job if they feel they don’t meet 100% of the requirements. If your company is struggling to find female applicants, perhaps it’s time to reword your job posts—even a few small changes in verbiage will attract a more diverse applicant pool.

“Every time I see an announcement of a woman at a C-Level I'm excited. It’s amazing.” -Becky Priebe
  • Become an advocate. Advocating for equality starts at the ground level: helping young women realize that anyone can work in technology. Find a protégé and invite them to shadow you. Share your knowledge and connect them to other women or non-binary professionals in tech. Continuously encourage them and nurture the passions that pulled them toward a job in technology in the first place by helping them find a path, the people, and the companies that best suit their goals and dreams.

  • Talk about it. According to Becky, one of the best ways to help shed light on the issues surrounding gender inequality in the workplace is to keep talking about it, both in and out of the office. Keep the gender gap or inequalities top of mind by acknowledging situations that don’t seem right. Speak up about them to leadership, whether you’re the one affected or not. The more inequality that is recognized and vocalized, the less it will be tolerated.

  • Credit ideas by amplification. Author Therese Huston recommends amplification, a method of crediting female thought leaders and repeating their ideas, as a way to have female voices heard when traditionally they may be overlooked. How does amplification work? When a woman in a meeting suggests an idea, another woman in the meeting immediately speaks up, names and credits the first woman, and repeats her idea. Through this simple method, women began reporting they had more success getting their ideas across and experienced more opportunities to contribute. Try it at your next meeting or group gathering!

  • Share wins for the women in the tech community. Being an active, uplifting presence on the internet can help continuously remind your network of the importance of contributing to an inclusive and balanced technology industry. Share news about a new female CEO and shout out your favorite women-led tech companies on social media to start to bring awareness to those that are rising to the top of the industry.

  • Acknowledge the efforts of others. Thank others for directly addressing the topic, whether it’s in person or on the web. The more we can come together as a community of advocates, the louder our message will be. For Becky, if anyone is willing to talk about female success, she’s ready to be an active participant, regardless of what side of the gap they fall on. Positivity and inclusiveness are key to making change.

“If I post something that seems a little bit edgy or promotes women, and a man responds to it, I thank him. I say, ‘thank you for having the courage to reply to this.’ Those men are the leaders. They're the ones that are going to be the best help because they’re actually engaging in the situation.” - Becky Priebe

Need help with your diversity recruiting initiatives? Contact VanderHouwen today!