More than 60 % of all bachelor's degrees in science and mathematics are held by women - both here in Sweden and the rest of the western world. In recent years we have also seen an increase of women, however very small, in most areas of the tech sector. Except in one: programming and computer development.
It’s not coincidental that the number of female programmers is steadily falling as the rapidly growing technology industry is screaming for talent. Women hesitate to enroll in the developer programs at the universities. This is partly due to the very male-dominated culture in the tech industry that awaits them after graduation.
To understand this inexplicable situation we need to go back in history.
In the 1950s and 60s there was a growing need of expertise to support the brand new field of computer science. This innovation craved qualified programmers, but there were non for hire. The universities lagged behind and as a consequence had zero tech education to offer. So - the need for labor forced companies to hire smart people (without any computer training) and train them themselves! IBM pioneered and adopted this strategy very early. IBM hired both women and men to supply their demand which contributed to their competitive edge back in the day. In the 50s and 60s women were a natural part in the development of the exploding technology industry.
The Space Race opened up even more opportunities to pursue a career in computer science. In the 70's the universities finally caught up and understood the need for advanced computer science education programs and up until the 1980s internal staff training was still very common. Thanks to free education and a hugely competitive salary the technology sector was attractive to both women and men. Equality had yet to be an issue.
Then something happened.
Suddenly, the emergence of discrimination impeding women’s tech career opportunities became more and more frequent. The elevated status of the engineering profession and a discriminatory compensation to women’s disadvantage made it less favourable and harder for women to enter the tech industry. This exclusion laid the foundation for the unequal tech industry we’ve seen for decades. Women have been fleeing the industry on the account of the astounding discrimination rooted in what we call unconscious gender prejudices and bias - i.e. the sentiment that women are simply less accomplished than men.
However ... the stereotype that the technology industry is only suited for men, is slowly (too slowly in my humble opinion) changing. Thanks to tech giants like Dell, Twitter and Microsoft the gender inequality issue has become real - these huge companies cannot simply continue to grow due to a lack of developers. As social media has forced companies to be a hundred percent transparent with how they conduct their business, it’s not just a growth issue anymore, it’s also a brand issue. Companies that still live by the ideology that men are better suited for tech development are simply not attractive employers anymore. Of course this becomes a huge disadvantage in the fierce competition, both when it comes to recruiting people and promoting their consumer offers. Bye bye!
Thanks to purposeful initiatives like Here Are The Women at Internetdagarna and Women In Tech, equality and diversity issues are highlighted today. The male dominance in the industry is heavily criticised, and to a certain extent this attention encourages women to once again dare entering the tech industry.
So, have hope! The old boys which maintain the power structures will soon retire - and they will hopefully take their outdated attitudes with them to the golf course.
Meet Annika at Internetdagarna November 21:st, 2016, to be inspired and learn how to increase your talent pool by recruiting diverse!