Women are getting into tech but they are also being pushed out

woman tech

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By 2029, there will be 3.6 million computer jobs in the United States, but there will only be enough college graduates with computer degrees to fill 24% of these jobs. For many years, the US has resources to improve gender representation in the technology industry. However, the numbers are not improving proportionately. Instead, they remain stagnant, with initiatives failing.

57% of the total workforce are women. In comparison, women make up only 27% of the workforce in the technology industry. Of the 27% who enter the tech industry, more than 50% are likely to quit before age 35, and 56% are likely to quit by mid-career.

So, questions arise: Why does the tech industry have a retention problem? Why are women employed by the technology industry leaving in such high numbers? What factors contribute to this low retention of women in the tech industry, and what kind of support do women need to stay there and succeed?

I am an information science researcher who studies gender and information technology, women in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – online and open source software communities. My team at the University of Tennessee conducted research to address these questions. We found that retention plays a big role in gender diversity in the tech field and that female-friendly online and physical spaces can increase retention.

Women leaving the tech industry

Research shows that women in the technology industry face many challenges. The gender pay gap is severe. Women do not have the same opportunities as men; for example, only 18% of chief information officers/chief technology officers are women. And women get treated unfairly.

My research team focused on the experiences of women in the technology industry with a particular focus on the treatment they receive in the workplace and the nature of support systems for successful women. We studied open source software communities because open source software communities are a prime example of gender inequality. Seventy percent of the software that supports technology infrastructure is open source, making open source software central to the future of the technology workforce. Yet only 9.8% of contributors to open source software projects are women.

In seeking answers to this retention problem in the tech industry, our research found that women’s negative experiences range from mild to severe harassment, sexism, discrimination and misogyny to outright death threats. Their expertise is challenged, their participation is not well received and their roles are reduced. They face constant harassment and deal with normalized abuse, and often hear that it will be “guys”, and deal with isolation because they are often bigger than men.

The impact of these negative experiences shows evidence of multiple levels of harm. For example, individual harm to a woman results in incidental harm to other women in discouraging participation, resulting in further mutual harm to the open source software community in the form of fewer women participating. Overall, these negative experiences are detrimental to retaining women in open source software and the technology industry in general.

Staggering statistics about women in technology.

The problem of culture

The mainstream media often reports on the toxic “tech bro” culture of open source software. In recent years, high-profile leaders in open source software have been exposed for their abusive behavior.

Open source software icon Linus Torvalds stepped aside from the Linux kernel after his toxic, offensive emails were exposed in the media. His decision to quit came as a result of questions about his abusive behavior to discourage women from working as Linux kernel programmers.

Another major figure in this field, Richard Stallman, was forced to resign from the Free Software Foundation and MIT after a very successful career in open source software due to his views on pedophilia, as well as numerous cases of sexual harassment by students and faculty. at MIT over a period of 30 years. These types of public incidents of unprofessional behavior by tech industry leaders have a chilling effect on women’s participation and perpetuate toxic behavior.

Support systems for women

In our research into the support systems for women in technology, we have observed and documented the value of online spaces that focus on women in the form of social, emotional, technical and networking support. Based on our findings, there are online spaces focused on female contributors and easily accessible through the websites of open source software organizations, to support women in open source software. The spaces help because they provide a sense of community for women working in open source software.

These spaces are primarily but not exclusively for women. Examples include Fedora Women and Debian Women. When women face discrimination and marginalization, these spaces allow them to connect with other women and seek social and emotional support. Women guide and mentor each other to navigate the toxicity of the tech industry and find ways to support gender equality.

Additionally, we found that women thrive when they are supported by community guidelines, such as codes of conduct for online spaces, personal events and professional organizations. We found that codes of conduct are often advocacy tools for equal treatment of women in online open source software communities. They serve as tools for both women and allies.

When women are supported by mentors and allies and can network in their communities, and see role models who look like them emerging from tech communities, they are less likely to drop out. The problem of retention can be addressed by tackling the tech industry’s gender disparities with physical and online spaces that focus on women, policies and practices to ensure equal treatment for women, and female mentors and role models.

Provided by An Comhrá

This article from The Conversation is republished under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The conversation

Quote: The retention problem: Women are entering tech but also being driven out (2023, March 3) retrieved March 5, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-retention-problem-women- tech-driven .html

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