14 Oct Going beyond the mentor: Steps tech can take to include more women
WhiteHat Security’s Rachael Andrews sees examples of qualified women struggling to gain respect for their tech skills everywhere — but employers can step in to uplift them.
This opinion post was written by Rachael Andrews, technical course director for WhiteHat Security. Andrews has worked at WhiteHat Security for more than two years, previously in roles as a vulnerability verification specialist and a DAST configurations specialist. Views are the author’s own.
During the past decade, much has been said and written about the lack of inclusion of women in the tech industry. The good news is that more and more women are speaking up to bring gender inequities to light and beating the drum to encourage younger women to push past long-standing societal roadblocks in pursuit of their dreams to work in tech. Yet, meaningful progress toward equality remains slow or minimal inside most tech companies.
Everywhere, there are examples of qualified women still struggling to gain credibility and respect for their tech knowledge and skills. A paradoxical example of this struggle happened in March of this year, when the news program “60 Minutes” failed to profile a female-led organization in an on-air segment examining how to close the gender gap in tech. One might say that the show’s producers had sadly missed the point they were trying to make.
A 2018 study by Boston Consulting Group found that women-led companies are delivering more than twice as much revenue per dollar invested than those founded by men, yet less than 3% of investor funding has gone to women-led startups in the past two years. Further, if you review the Fortune 500, which covers industries beyond tech, you’ll find that just 33 female CEOs are included in the exclusive leaders’ club of power and experience.
Why do gender imbalances proliferate in tech?
The answer is not cut and dried. Many gender-related factors and societal prejudices have long prevented women from pursuing the study of technology at university. For example, these factors include the male-dominated environment, even at the faculty level, perception that the major is inherently a better ‘fit’ for men, and negative feedback or low grades causing them to leave the major. In fact, the way in which recruiting and mentoring in STEM have been framed, through government and other policy initiatives, could be contributing to why women feel undue pressure in related fields — because those efforts actually end up reinforcing the idea that STEM is for men.