There’s no denying the importance of computers and that they are the driving force of our world today. Technology is constantly advancing and it has a major influence on everyone's lives whether they acknowledge it or not. So with half of the population being female, shouldn’t at least close to half of the jobs in tech be occupied by women? You would hope so but unfortunately, that is not the reality. Women only account for 25% of jobs in tech as of 2015 and that number is steadily declining, but why?
It wasn’t always like this so let’s start from the beginning. In the 1940’s during WWII the military hired hundreds of women to solve complicated problems relating to weapon accuracy. Those women made massive strides and a result of their hard work was the creation of the ENIAC in 1946. ENIAC stands for “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer”. It is considered the first electronic general-purpose computer. As you could have guessed because it was the norm at the time, the men who worked on it celebrated the accomplishment and the women were swept under the rug. In 1967, Cosmopolitan Magazine called for more women programmers and programming was considered a woman's job. In 1984, 37% of working women were working in computer software.
It wasn’t until the late 80’s that tech began its incline of becoming a predominantly male field. The gaze had shifted from hardware engineering to computer software and created a gold rush in silicon valley. The world rallied behind Steve Jobs and Bill Gates’ accomplishments in the late 80’s, leading to the rise of the stereotypical male nerd in pop culture. Movies such as Weird Science and War Games put this character on a pedestal. Video games were gendered as a toy for boys which is still something we see today just to a lesser degree. The number of women in tech peaked in 1991 at 36% and has been on a constant decline since.
In the present day, only 18% of women are pursuing computer science majors. Once they graduate many women struggle to find work because they are told they are not “culture fits” which is widely understood by women in the industry as “most of the men here have not interacted with females that often so we don’t know how to talk to you.” The women fortunate enough to find a job in their field are twice as likely to leave tech than their male counterparts are. Often being asked by their coworkers about their marital status, if they plan to have children, or being asked by their superiors to take notes when the men in the room are rarely asked the same things if at all.
You might wonder why it is so important to have women in tech. Just 25 years ago, we discovered that heart disease manifests differently in women than it does in men. Not due to any lack of technology, just because nobody had ever looked into it before. What does a male doctor think he has to gain from studying a female heart? In an industry that’s changing the world, nobody should get to ask “what’s in it for me?”. When women design new things such as products and services, they often bring with them a new perspective that wouldn’t have been brought to the table otherwise. A lack of women is a lack of perspective and in turn is a loss of progress and advancement for our world.