Women in Tech – Conferences and ERGs

General Technology

According to the yearly research done by the Anita B.org Institute 24% of tech roles are held by women – up 1% from last year. 84.7% of these women identify as either white or Asian. In the executive level, where a lot of attention is often focused on the inequalities in tech for women, the female representation increased from 16.4% to 18.5% in the last year.

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At each educational/experiential stage in a woman’s tech career, some are lost through the so called “leaky pipeline.” Efforts should be made to get as many women as possible in the field from a young age, but if the majority are lost along the way, there is no hope for equality.

The tech companies that offers the best opportunities for women were also ranked by Anita B.org. Among the most recognizable of these companies are Google, Airbnb, ThoughtWorks, Accenture and IBM.

Despite this ranking, Google was involved in a scandal earlier this year regarding an internal memo that went out. A software engineer in the company claimed that the abilities and “biological differences” between men and women caused them to be less suited for the technical work of coding. The man was soon asked to leave Google, but this doesn’t change the fact that one of the top tech companies for women has had a gender equality related scandal in the past two months.

Were this inherent biological difference between men and women’s capabilities with computers true, it certainly is proven wrong in countries like India and Malaysia. In undergraduate programs, coding classes are consistently around 50% women. Something about how the U.S. and U.K. perceive tech is getting in the way of women’s opportunities in the industry.

Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship

Being the founder of a startup or one hoping to get funded as a woman poses an additional set of problems. The barriers for women in tech startups are even more startling then tech in general. Currently, 17% of startups have a woman founder and 3% of venture capital dollars go to female led companies. Female led companies are outperforming male led ones by 63%. We need to start giving more opportunities to women in startups.

In the recent article referenced in class and tweeted by a few class members, it was found that women working in tech startups receive half of the equity that men do in the same company. In such a young and hungry industry as the world of entrepreneurship, a lack of negotiations skills can attribute to this gap in equity. This equity gap can partially be attributed to the statistic quoted by Sheryl Sandberg in 2010, finding that in an entry level position 57% of men negotiate salary where only 7% of women did.

Solutions

Starting today, people from all over the country are beginning to gather at the largest gathering of women in tech each year – The Grace Hopper Conference – put on by the Anita B.org institute. Last year over 18,000 individuals in tech attended and the expected attendance for this year has climbed to 20,000. Its growth speaks volumes about its value. The conference acts as a forum to exchange knowledge from women technologists to other women technologists. Topics range from “managing your career” to more detailed tech and coding speeches. The conference provides mentorship opportunities with leaders in the industry as well as networking among other females in the industry. The conference creates a forum for large company representatives, leaders in the field, and young college students to meet. In addition to the opportunities provided, the conference is a forum for the Anita B.org Institute to release their yearly research on the leading companies for women’s opportunities in tech.

Anita Borg

Anita Borg, founder of the Institute for Women and Technology. Namesake of the Anita B.org Institute.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper.

As more pressure has been put on companies internally to improve their gender equality, Forbes reports that “employee resource groups” or ERGs which are often targeted at women exist at 90% of Fortune 500 companies. These programs are often being utilized wrong. Women who participate in these programs feel they are of help, but the numbers of women in tech do not support the fact that this is creating a real change.

A select few venture capital funds have begun focusing on investing in female-founded portfolio companies to help solve the gap in funding. Some of the successful, and more well-known highlights of these investments include First Round Capital’s investment in Birchbox, Lerer Hippeau’s in Glossier, Greycroft’s in theSkimm and Kleiner Perkins’ in Rent the Runway. Focus on funding makes significant progress in encouraging women to join entrepreneurship. Of the ranked companies (found here) which were all founded by women, there is a fairly even distribution of companies across industry type. Meaning that these funds are not just investing in women founders who want to create easier home décor, jewelry or fashion – they also invest in technologies that will bring wearables to the elderly and create an AI bot that can become your best friend and confidant.

In the future, if all interviews and pitches were done with random names and we discovered a way for gender to become completely separated from hiring or venture capital, the world of tech for women may be a more equal place. Not only do we need to retain female tech employees, but we need to continue to encourage young girls to join the field in the first place. No matter what the cause of the issue, whether it be personal bias, societal pressures or lack of resources it is not news to anyone that the lack of women in tech is an issue.

We need more female role models in tech. We need to focus on the few great ones in order to get more. People want to become the same as those they idolize, but with few women in tech there are few to look to for guidance. Above all, the programs we need have been created, now we need to find the right ways to use them to finish what we started.

 

5 thoughts on “Women in Tech – Conferences and ERGs

  1. Hi Shelby, thanks for sharing! The stat on the number of female-backed companies by venture capital is very shocking. The Grace Hopper Conference seems to be growing in popularity, and it will surely provide women with more resources in the male-dominated tech field. I have noticed more companies have talked about their women mentorship programs. Also, it is great to see groups around campus supporting women pursuing tech careers, like Women in Computer Science and Women Innovators Network. I think that people are definitely gaining awareness of this issue and making strides to improve it.

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  2. One thing I forgot to mention in class last week, is that we’ve agreed on a goal of gender parity for all Tech Trek trips. In past years, it’s been about 75%/25% but I’m pleased we’re pushing pretty close to 50% (in admissions, at least) over the past year or so. Change can start here.

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  3. The underrepresentation of women in the tech industry is a very real problem that needs to be tackled from a number of angles. The fact that female-led companies outperform their male counterparts should be evidence enough to raise the amount of investment they receive, so it’s frustrating to read about how progress is still slow. I loved learning about the Grace Hopper Conference. I had never heard of it before, but with 20,000 people in attendance, I can only imagine how exciting and inspiring it must be to attend.

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  4. These discrepancies are unfathomable. Even with all the effort and “progress”, the gap is very far from being closed. That being said, it’s definitely encouraging to see events like the Grace Hopper Conference! 20,000+ is a lot for a single conference! It’s also great to see companies like Goldman begin to address the issue by allocating $500M for female founders (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-19/goldman-sachs-pledges-500-million-to-invest-in-female-founders). We have a long, long way to go, but hopefully we can continue the work and progress towards a more equal landscape!

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  5. Thank you for sharing Shelby! Although in the past women have not experienced a fair environment in the tech, entrepreneurship, and VC space, I think it is great that some major firms have pushed for more equality. However, I also think that equality does not stop there, and that more firms need to push for similar initiatives. Personally, I think that a great way for women to be recognized and equally represented even more in the industry would be to have female entrepreneurs speak to college students. By doing so, it will be instituted in students minds how important equality in entrepreneurship really is.

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