The Root of the Tech Industry’s Gender Gap

Although gender balance in the workplace has evened steadily in the last century, the proportion of women in technology fields has actually regressed. In fact, I see first-hand how the tech world fails women at every step of the way due to cultural barriers and lack of mentorship.

The education gap narrows, in some cases.
Some people in education assume that women and girls learn differently from their male counterparts and believe that the gender imbalance can be solved by teaching coding separately and differently to girls. Programs like Made with Code take this approach. This assumption has been proven incorrect in numerous studies and trends in college enrollment do not support it.

In 1985 there were 14 boys for every girl in the top 0.01 percent of math test takers, while today that gap has closed to two-and-a-half to one. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women began outstripping men in the number of college degrees earned at all levels over the course of the 1980s. It is not reasonable to think that innate gender differences could change so dramatically in so short a time. We must conclude that cultural shifts can drive changes in gender-based achievement gaps.

It stands to reason that women majoring in tech fields would increase proportional to the rise in overall college enrollment numbers. But that has not been the case. The number of women getting degrees in computer science grew steadily until the mid-eighties, then dropped over the next 25 years, according to the National Science Foundation. Cultural expectations seem to play a large role in this persistent gap. Data shows that girls with role models in tech will gravitate towards those fields.

The need for role models.
Earlier this year Johns Hopkins University released the results of a study indicating that black students were significantly less likely to drop out of high school if they had just one black teacher in third through fifth grades. Role models in educational settings have a huge impact in shaping the way young people imagine their futures and make decisions. Likewise, when girls have female role models who excel in technology, math and science, those girls tend to maintain interest in those fields.