The unfortunate truth is that the gender gap is real. Women have fewer opportunities and get paid less than men for the same jobs. In fact, on average women make 79% of men’s salaries for the same job despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In tech, this gender gap is perhaps the most pronounced. On top of lower salaries, women make up only 18% of undergraduates majoring in computer science and 26% of computing jobs.
To be clear, this gender gap is not caused by an excess of candidates and a shortage of jobs. Girls Who Code (more on them below) notes that the US Department of Labor predicts that by 2020, computing fields will produce 1.4 million new jobs. However, women will claim just 3% of these 1.4 million jobs, and yet 71% of the positions will remain open because of a lack of experienced candidates. These numbers show that there simply aren’t enough women in the tech industry to fill the growing demand for talent. It’s clear that we need women in tech more than ever before, so what is being done about it?
Here are 3 companies that are actively closing the gender gap in tech.
Toptal, an international freelance platform, not only pushes the boundaries of innovation by being a multi-million dollar company without an office anywhere in the world, but it is also campaigning in the fight to increase gender equality in tech through the open source community. Co-founder Breanden Beneschott conducted a study on GitHub, the popular open source site, and found that only 5% of regular open source contributors were women.
To combat this and increase equality across the entire tech industry, Toptal launched the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women. The scholarship includes $5,000 and a year of one-on-one mentoring with one of Toptal’s senior engineers. To apply, candidates had to contribute to open source and publish a blog post discussing the experience. So far, winners have come from countries as varied as Nepal and Argentina, giving greater exposure to the gender gap on an international scale.
The root cause of the gender gap in tech isn’t as simple as employers discriminating against female employees. Sure, that’s a part of it, but it actually becomes a pipeline problem that can be traced all the way back to youth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a Girls Who Code study posted on their website that found that 66% of girls aged 6-12 years old are interested in tech, but that figure drops to 32% for 13-17 year-olds.
Girls Who Code is a non-profit that aims to turn that drop-off in interest around and is “building the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States,” according to their website. The organization runs after-school programs for girls in middle and high school to learn coding as well as 7-week summer programs for high schoolers. With over 10,000 participants and donors including companies like Twitter, Microsoft, and more, Girls Who Code is taking a unique approach to correcting the gender gap by addressing the problem at its root.
Honesty is powerful. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has always been frank about his company. Back in 2013, he was dismayed to see so many male managers at his meetings that he started Women’s Surge, an initiative to more actively promote female staff and ensure that men and women were equal in pay and promotions, and that women would compose at least one-third of every meeting. It’s no 50/50, but it was a start.
In 2015, Cindy Robbins and Leyla Seka, two women promoted through Women’s Surge, approached Benioff and told him that not everything about Women’s Surge was equal, that in fact women were still being paid less than men. To get to the truth of the issue, Salesforce conducted a company-wide evaluation of 17,000 employees’ paychecks to determine if there was a gendered imbalance in pay. Turns out, Robbins and Seka were right. Salesforce proactively engaged the problem again and devoted $3 million to increasing women’s pay in the company. While Salesforce is still predominantly male, the company has shown itself to be proactive and public about its attempts to create gender equality, something more Silicon Valley companies should emulate.
How else can companies help close the gender gap in tech, and do you know of any other businesses taking steps to promote equality?