Male dominance in the field is bad for women, and bad for the industry, as well.
Across the technology sector there is a major disparity between men and women.
While 57 percent of occupations in the workforce are held by women, in computing occupations that figure is only 25 percent. Of chief information officer jobs (CIOs) at Fortune 250 companies, 20 percent were held by a woman in 2012.
Unfortunately, this is not merely a temporary blip, as this disparity is present at the college level. In 2010, although 57 percent of undergraduate degree recipients were female, but only 14 percent of the computer science degrees at major research universities. Incredibly, this number has actually fallen in recent years: In 1985, 37 percent of undergraduates degree recipients in computer science were women. By 2010, that fell to 18 percent, and at major research universities, the number was 14 percent.
Incredibly, just 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science—an astoundingly low number.
Looking to the data from high schoolers, the disparity is still extreme. While 56 percent of Advanced Placement test-takers were female, only 19 percent of test-takers on the AP Computer Science test were. At the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), one of the world’s largest pre-college sciences competitions with more than $4,000,000 in awards, only 17 percent of 2011 finalists in computer science were young women.
This is Bad for Tech
This disparity hurts the technology companies themselves.
First, if half of the users of technology products and websites are women, then one would think that having women not just on staff, but in positions of leadership to define future directions for the company, is in their direct pecuniary interest. According to a recent study by Delloite:
Research shows that [women’s] choices impact up to 85 percent of purchasing decisions. By some analyses, they account for $4.3 trillion of total U.S. consumer spending of $5.9 trillion, making women the largest single economic force not just in the United States, but in the world.
According to a report by Parks Associates, more women than men are downloading movies and music; women do the majority of game-playing across some platforms; and women have higher “purchase intentions” than men do when it comes to some electronics.
To be clear, this is not to say that every women in a technology company is an expert in how to create products for women—that is absurd—but certainly technology companies could benefit from an understanding of the perspectives and needs of the “largest single economic force” in the world.
Further, there have been several empirical studies finding that “people with more diverse sources of information generated consistently better ideas.” Walmart, not a technology company, has explained, “Diverse teams often outperform teams composed of the very best individuals, because this diversity of perspective and problem-solving approach trumps individual ability.”
Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, and Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, have demonstrated that women can be a driving force for innovation and ideas in technology.
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