Women in Technology
Despite longstanding societal barriers and outdated hiring practices, women have come a long way in workforce participation over the past several decades. As of 2019, women’s labor force participation was 57.4%, up from 57.1% in 2018. We think this is awesome because, across all industries, women consistently introduce groundbreaking ideas and change the world through their incredible talents to the jobs they hold.
However, there’s one industry that is still notably lacking in gender diversity: Technology.
“There is space in the technology field for everyone,” says Katie McCullough, Chief Information Security Officer at Panzura. “However, I’m no stranger to being one of only a few women in the room. We need to get rid of this idea that tech is just for the guys. If you are interested in solving problems and making a difference for companies— you should be able to pursue it no matter who you are. You may just discover a passion that you’ve never considered before.”
Given the tech field’s reputation for innovation and forward-thinking, the latest data may come as a surprise to some. As of 2022, 26.7% of tech jobs were held by women, and that percentage drops lower if you look beyond entry-level positions. Women currently hold only 10.9% of C-suite-level jobs in the tech industry. Another notable trend underscores the need for change: The total number of women in technology roles decreased by 2.1% from 2020 to 2021.
So, what gives? Why is technology such a male-dominated field?
We can see some of these workforce trends by looking at educational backgrounds. Considerably fewer women than men earn STEM (science, technology, math, and science) degrees in colleges and universities. Women make up 22% of earned engineering degrees, 20% of computer science degrees, and 21% of physics degrees. Even within a growing number of STEM career options, women are still less likely to pursue work in technology than other math and science careers. According to a study from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, women are 40% less likely to work in engineering, 33% more likely to work in math, and over 90% more likely to work in science than in technology careers.
“It’s important for the young pioneers of technology to feel like they have a strong support group around them,” says Panzura CEO, Jill Stelfox. “For young girls, especially those who often aren’t encouraged to consider a tech career — or worse yet, told that this field’s not made for them, we have to pave the way and set an example. We have to show them this is a space for women, and we need to emphasize that they shouldn’t let anyone get in their way.”
While there’s still work to be done, it’s worth noting that there are encouraging signs as well. Though the gap is significant between men and women, the percentage of women in tech has grown steadily over the past few decades. In 1970, women made up a meager 8% of the STEM workforce in the United States, but that percentage rose to 27% by 2019.
However, the percentage of women in tech is still low. There’s no single answer as to why, but many speculate that wage gaps, biased hiring practices, and lack of awareness about technology as a possible career path are just a few reasons that contribute to the unequal distribution of gender in tech.
So, if the goal is to get more women into the tech industry (and make no mistake, that is the goal), what do we need to do?
To create a future that truly offers equal opportunity in technology, we need to let young women know they can work in technology if they want to. But more than just working in the field, they need to know they can lead the industry forward. Mentorship programs and opportunities to learn tech-related skills while still in school can be game-changing for the way that young girls — and women of all ages — see possibilities for jobs in technology.
Jill’s insights as a female CEO can help guide the way that we inspire young women to pursue technology. “I’ve experienced my fair share of discrimination as a woman in this position and in this industry, but we can’t focus on a few negative people and allow them to steer the technology narrative. We need to hold our heads high, demonstrate our knowledge, and continue moving the industry forward. Let’s empower girls by letting them know that the reigns of the future are in their hands and that they are well-equipped to overcome challenges and lead innovations.”
We need to be active participants in creating the future that we want to see. Let’s step up together and make it happen.