Why Women Fail in Tech Faster than Men
As I ponder the controversy of systematic sexism and racism in the professional sphere and in technology especially, I cannot help but feel inspired by pioneers (podcast), like
Tracy Chou, whose birthday it is today, and who has brought data on diversity and inclusion to the foreground of Silicon Valley while keeping a busy schedule of advocacy.
As powerful as movements and support for women in technology were circa 2015, life goes on, and the reasons why women tend to churn from Silicon Valley are becoming clearer. But to face the facts, it's a bleak picture:
If you work in technology, and are female or a visible minority, it may not be a box of chocolates!
Women Fail Because We Do Not Promote Them
- Women are more than twice as likely to quit the tech industry as men (41% vs 17%).
- The #1 reason women leave companies is because of “a concern for the lack of advancement opportunity. This is not just based on unequal pay but far more importantly, being trusted with positions of leadership and an equality in being promoted on merit.
They’re treated unfairly; underpaid, less likely to be fast-tracked than their male colleagues, and unable to advance.
The Problem with Women in Tech isn’t the Women — it’s the Men
The rampant sexism is not just in the world place but in the very fabric of the culture that pervades startups, venture capital and the entire system of Silicon Valley (hiring, promotion and retention!) and related tech hubs all over the world.
- 27% of women in tech feel stalled in their careers.
- 32% are likely to quit within one year.
- 48% of Black women in tech feel stalled.
You've perhaps heard all these rough numbers before, but as a reminder, recent reports from TechCrunch, the WSJ, and others found that:
Venture Capital is Basically a Big Boys Club
- Just 7% of venture investors in the top 100 VC firms are women
- 38% of the top 100 firms have one or more woman partner (but out of those 38 firms, 28 just have one woman partner)
- For those of you who are bad at math, that means 62% of the top 100 VC firms are 100% dudes, and 90% are almost 100% dudes
- 3 of the 100 top VC firms were founded by women
- Only 8% of Silicon Valley companies that received Series A funding last year were helmed by women
Mirror Neurons and Perpetuation of Promoting and Funding
People cannot help but invest and promote in people that unconsciously remind them of themselves, this isn't a bias that's easily overrode. Socialization is a powerful implicit bias.
As entrepreneurs and dealing with venture capital, we all have a responsibility to build an innovation economy, and if women and minorities are held back, the tech of the future will re-purpose inequality for generations to come!
Why Women in Tech Fail
While there's some evidence women actually outperform men in many fields academically in University and College, when they hit the workplace, there are many possible scenarios that hold them back:
- Women may frequently experience being excluded from more creative and innovative roles. (comment if you can relate to this!)
- Women may be passed up for more high-risk/high-reward positions and not receiving high visibility “stretch” assignments accordingly.
- So obviously, women fail in tech not just because of a pipeline problem, it's retaining them and giving them leadership that's the glaring issue.
- We put women in a position of being minorities where, they are left having to prove themselves again and again.
- Have you ever observed a meeting where a woman's ideas go ignored until a man makes the same suggestion later? Studies have found that men’s voices are perceived as more persuasive, fact-based, and logical than women’s voices.
The Brain Drain Will Continue as Women Drop Out of the Tech Rat-Race
The brain-drain of talented women in technology won't stop until we actually create environments where they can thrive, without having to fight to be promoted as easily as men (not to mention make the same $).
If women can learn to stop apologizing, and those cliches you hear, "be less perfect and take more risks" (like asking for the $ they are worth!) and if men can ensure millennial women get the positions of leadership they deserve, things may slowly change.
Men don't do enough to address inclusivity in tech, and implicitly you might say it's because white men have the most to lose and they are the ones who tend to be in power in VC, as c-level executives, etc... It won't be enough to
Vouch, advocate, include, support, confront biases, teach ourselves, recognize, refute, re-learn, confront, educate, guide, combat, call out, and be proactive about gender bias - but for many of us - it's all we can do.
Meanwhile, we can feast on inequality until it hurts, until it fuels us to new heights:
- Researchers have found that women receive more vague feedback and personality criticism in performance evaluations.
- Women in tech are less likely to get their ideas green-lighted for development than men (30% vs 37%).
- A study of 1,800 professionals found that without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas.
Who are the Diversity and Inclusion Natives?
As millennials and millennial women who have grown up with unprecedented diversity in their environments get promoted to c-level executives, we have to be optimistic that women and visible minorities will have a bigger place in leadership in technology, be promoted more easily and thrive in tech startups, venture capital and as entrepreneurs.
Further reading: Project Include.
Further watching: Formative Moment.
What is your story of being a woman in technology, or of empowering a more inclusive workplace? Are women at your workplace or in your department treated the same as men?