The Gender Problem in Tech

The Gender Problem in Tech

Jay Park, Web Editor

  There is a disproportionately small percentage of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. There have been international efforts by many organizations to encourage girls to take interest, but it seems like it will take a bit of time until the gender ratio evens out.

  The imbalance, however, has currently created an unwelcoming and hostile culture towards women. Adding to the recent protests to speak out against sexual harassment in the movie industry, it is unsurprising that women feel oppressed in the predominantly male industry. It’s not the first time America has had a problem with male-centric, testosterone-charged groups who throw around their belief of white privilege. Aptly labelled “bro culture,” these sexist and racist ideas have women and minorities struggling to find an equal working environment.

  The dominance of “bro” values pressures women, isolating them. Stereotypes and sexual remarks are reported to be casually thrown around in workplace conversations. The pressure to conform can be more than just uncomfortable. For some, it is overbearing. The gender disparities don’t stop there.

  Bro culture has been proven to perpetuate even wider levels of misogyny in the tech industry than those in other fields, like a larger gender pay gap, more harassments, and simply more open discrimination. CNN Money has performed surveys that reveal women earn 80 cents for every man’s dollar. Racial prejudices also play a twisted role here, as black women earn 67 cents for that dollar and hispanic women earn 60 cents.

  It is unacceptable for such an obsolete, traditional mindset to exist in an industry that prides itself of its “progressivism.” But in an environment so chock full of men, it is difficult for women, who are a minority, to speak out, unlike their counterparts in Hollywood. However, there have been some positive events that prove change may be around the corner.

  Google engineer James Damore, venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck, and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick are some major figures who have been ousted due to their indecent behaviour, which were exposed publicly by their co-workers. But after the #MeToo movement, the tech industry has been overshadowed, and temporarily forgotten. When it will regain momentum depends on the voices of those who are willing to speak up.

  Behind the scenes, the powerful figures who run the show are almost all men, and that means that startups looking for funding require the venture capitalists’ approval. And these people have a “homophily bias,” – a tendency to favor those who are very similar to them. This obviously carries over into in-group bias, which would shut out women in a gathering full of men.

  Venture capital in the Silicon Valley, which funds high-risk high-reward startups, seems to be following a vicious cycle that promotes such a toxic and discriminatory environment. Those with the power to invest are few, and they have formed their own net of influential connections and such. These people find a founder that they like, who is the culmination of their prejudices and biases. These companies tend to beget companies so successful that it leads to a chain of similar child companies, who are modelled after their parent company. The child company mirrors the goods and bads of their parent, which unfortunately carries over the smothering bro culture.

  Like all social changes, it is clear that momentous change will take time and effort. As the Wall Street bro culture several decades ago have shown us, the fall of a few billionaires cannot do much. Real and strict legislation is the truly necessary tool to start undermining this outdated and twisted reality.