Discrimination has many faces. From racial and age discrimination to gender discrimination, many can agree that it occurs far too often. One area where gender discrimination, in particular, is rearing its ugly head is the tech industry. For women trying to pursue careers in the male-dominated tech industry, they often face an uphill battle in their search for success. But gender discrimination in the tech industry isn’t just a U.S. problem. Around the world, female tech professionals are either under represented in executive roles or face discrimination daily.
The problem isn’t that women aren’t pursuing tech careers. Many tech firms actually employ an impressive number of women to fill their tech jobs. For example, “Zendesk, the New York-listed customer service firm which acquired Singapore chat startup Zopim, has over 1,700 employees, of which nearly 600 (35%) are women.” Shopback, an e-commerce startup, claims “half of its 120 employees are female.”
However, despite the number of women in tech roles, there is still a lack of women tech professionals in executive roles. According to a report released in 2014 by law firm Fenwick & West, “women occupy only 11 per cent of executive positions at Silicon Valley tech companies, and only 9 per cent of executive officers in Silicon Valley are women.”
Unfortunately, these numbers don’t surprise people like Amy Foo, the vice-president of finance and operations for the Asia-Pacific region at Zendesk. She said, “This isn’t too surprising,” and commented that the tech industry is still perceived as a geeky boys club. But that perception isn’t the underlying reason why there are few female tech executives.
Gender discrimination and the fact that some believe women simply aren’t cut out for tech jobs can go a long way in limiting female advancement in the industry. Take the 10-page memo written by former Google employee, James Damore. Damore is an example of someone who believes women aren’t cut out for tech jobs simply because they’re women. In his memo, Damore argued that “women are under-represented in tech not because of prejudice, but because of inherent differences between the sexes, and that the company’s affirmative action-type of hiring and education programmers were misplaced.” Shortly after being shared on social media platforms, his memo went viral and he was fired, but not before striking a nerve with many women across the country.
Damore’s memo did, however, draw attention to a growing problem. In the last year, “reports of sexual harassment and discrimination in the tech sector reached record levels” as more women felt confident enough to step forward and speak up.
At the end of the day, if Damore’s memo accomplished anything it’s that it got people talking about the discrimination that women face on a daily basis on their quest to excel in their tech careers. From not being taken as seriously as male-coworkers, to having to endure unwarranted harassment and lack of advancement opportunities, female tech professionals have a lot to contend with. In order to ensure a better, more inclusive environment for female tech professionals, firms and companies should do everything in their power to address any existing discrimination issues and work on bridging the divide between genders.