Common Issues Women Face in Technology

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“Common Issues Women Face in Technology” was submitted by a member of our community in support of Sweetcode’s diversity initiative in which we strive to recognize and increase visibility of under-represented groups, and to encourage a mindset of equity and inclusion.

Why do we see mostly men in tech? There’s quite a few reasons. We won’t cover all of the issues women face in the technology industry, but from my experience I can share a few examples that come to mind. First of all, women typically don’t apply for jobs they don’t meet “ALL” the requirements for. I’d also like to discuss how women face sexual harassment at work, and how difficult it can be to speak up when all your coworkers are male and how to work through these obstacles you will face as a woman in technology.

Meeting the Requirements

If you were to search on Google, “men apply for jobs but only meet 60% of job requirements,” you will find numerous accounts of this phenomenon. Whereas, women tend to only apply if they meet 100% of the requirements. Job descriptions tend to contain a list of requirements needed to be qualified as a “good fit” for the role. The issue with this is that it can come off as if you don’t meet all the requirements then you are not a suitable candidate. Which is where the next step in the process comes in of who actually hits submit and applies for jobs?

Women from a young age tend to be told to follow the rules and guidelines and are heavily encouraged to follow that path. While men are typically told to break the rules and go outside the box way of thinking. 

According to the Harvard Business Review , a lack of confidence indicated by “I don’t think I could do the job well”, was one of the least popular responses. This indicates that it’s not a lack of confidence that women have that keeps them from applying to jobs that they may be fully qualified to do. The most common response was “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.” Women tend to be more likely to read word for word what the job description means and make a decision to apply based on if they can actually do everything outlined in the job description. 

Sexual Harassment

This is a touchy topic for sure, but this is real and it does happen. Most women don’t speak up about it out of fear after an event of harassment has occurred. Since most often, sexual harassment comes from a male figure who is their manager or mentor, someone they look up to who tends to be at a higher level in the organization.

According to this article from CNBC , in a survey of more than one thousand tech founders, 42% said the harassment came from a supervisor. From my experience and from speaking with other women in technology is that they only open up after they have left the company, and even then just to other women, not disclosing what happened to the company or HR from the organization. Nearly 50% of women who work in tech have experienced harassment in the workplace at some point in time. 

Something to consider, is what are the repercussions for committing sexual harassment at work? In the past, the tech industry has done a bad job at holding company leaders accountable for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. In 2018, Google employees participated in a walkout to protest how poorly the company stood up against sexual harassment found in the workplace. 

The first step is acknowledgment of the problem, only then can we start to make improvements. We still have quite a ways to go. 

Speaking Up

Women tend to not speak up as much as their male counterparts. This can be due to multiple reasons, such as feeling outnumbered in a group, feeling like your input isn’t valuable, or just feeling unsure if it’s the right time to interject. Sure some of these can happen for men as well, but it’s a very different experience being the only woman on a team full of men and trying to break through barriers and be more vocal during meetings. 

Especially with what’s going on in our world where women feel silenced and not able to speak up about rights about our bodies, it would be foolish to think that what happens outside of work wouldn’t impact our way of communicating in the workplace. 

Conclusion

Working in technology is a very rewarding experience for women and men. Solving complex problems, coming together to collaborate towards a mission, and having all those “aha” moments when your code works can all be satisfying. However, there are still some unique unfair issues women face in technology-related industries. Let’s lead the way and break down barriers to entry for women in tech and create a more inclusive environment going forward. It won’t happen overnight, but success doesn’t happen overnight. This will take time but we will get there by creating more awareness and taking the necessary action in the workplace.


Alicia Luciano is a Platform Infrastructure Engineer with 6 years experience in technology. She has worked with databases as a DBA at a large-scale organization, focusing on ML to predict growth trends for capacity planning strategies. She then dove into SRE type work as an Infrastructure engineer at several startups throughout the Colorado area, where she focuses heavily on monitoring and creating SLIs,SLOs and SLAs for micro-service systems.


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