Women in Tech
Note: This is my best article from 10th grade journalism. I'd like to extend my utmost thanks to Mark Gerl for offering his connections, the interviewees (anonymous *I'll check on that one) for widening my perspective on such a complex and deeply rooted issue as institutionalized gender bias, and of course, Robin Rakusin (my journalism teacher) for inspiring me to work for hours on research, interviewing, writing, and editing such a passionate piece for my repertoire.
The tech industry is thriving. According to The Conference Board, over the year of 2015, online advertisements for “computer and mathematical” jobs increased by 12% from 536,100 to 599,800; demonstrating an increase in demand for tech-related jobs. As an up-and-coming programmer, I’ve only seen statistics behind the reality of gender in tech. The ratio for children with a childhood interest in STEM jobs— Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics – is 35 girls to 65 boys [proportional to 100 children]. From there, a mere 18% of people getting a high school or college degree in tech are women, and 25% of workers in a tech career are women. Why is there a subliminal bias towards women in the field of technology?
I interviewed two accomplished female developers from the game company BioWare to view their thoughts on gender discrimination in the tech job market. BioWare has created as popular games as Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Their jobs are among the most respected in the field, and their work helps define modern-day cultural belief systems such as outlook on sexual orientation and race.
“What kinds of career bias have you experienced outside the game-making industry?"
“There’s an inherent bias no matter what career. I encountered sexism as a musician as much as I encountered it as a scientist. That for some reason, if you’re in a room full of scientists and you have a TA, there was the feeling that there was an inherent need to help women because we ‘didn’t apparently know what we were doing with a simple centrifuge … or how to plug a bass into an amp.’ So this happens, and it isn’t just in video games.
This is one of the many careers that you can have where you might be the only female in your class.”
How do you think this bias started out?
“A lot of it is perception … when games were first made [the precursor to console] they were marketed towards both genders. Just like a toy that you would get to play. During the ‘80s, marketing philosophies started changing and started focusing on the market, and somehow, since boys were playing video games slightly more than girls were, they started marketing video games only towards boys. So a lot of this is just marketing and the perception of girls not wanting to play video games
… most people aren’t like that. They don’t care what I look like, if I have fun shooting things, or if I like using the hammer. But there’s a small segment for whatever reason that has this identity that they don’t want to give up. They are very loud, they can be awful, and if you’ve been a female working in this industry for any amount of time, you’ve been subject to that.”
Is society moving in a better direction in terms of gender bias in the industry?
“There has been a shift in attitude, and certainly recently, the attitude towards representation in games … Look up the top five selling games, probably at least 80% of those will have a white grizzled man on the cover. There has been a voice from not only people of color, but also women saying ‘How come I don’t get a cover?’ And just that question makes people angry.
A lot of marketing companies will work on something that they call “Historical Data” that shows them what worked and what didn’t, and they try not to change those models because that’s how they prove their jobs and that’s how they prove that they’re doing the ‘right thing’. But the world changes, the world has new attitudes, the world grows up a bit, hopefully, and maybe our attitudes towards sex and race mature a little bit ….
I feel the pushback towards women in tech now more than I felt when I started at BioWare 10 years ago. I think it’s that same kind of thing where people never really talked about it. Now that women are starting to get more up in the ranks and making games and playing games, that makes people who didn’t like that aware, so they start lashing out.”
What obstacles do the education system face in terms of creating a better learning environment for young women who are interested in tech?
“Schools will try and attract more female students and more female students will come, but the female students will still see that they are two out of a class of forty, and some of those unconscious biases will still wear you down
I had this great teacher once who found that there was some kind of ‘tipping point’ where he’s noticing in his classes that girls are more hesitant. Maybe it happens more gradually or maybe it happens all at once. I found out as a teacher that the middle grades such as 4th grade to 6th grade were extremely critical in developing confidence in girls”
The main point of this investigative piece isn’t to give a definite answer, as there is none. In an ongoing study taken from 4,997 women in IT, women submitted an average salary of $65,929, which is patently proportional to the average salary of $76,580 submitted by over 13,000 male IT submissions. In addition to the way we treat women in the career of tech, the clear difference in job position, salary, and proportion in the industry demands revolution. How do we level the scales so that our young women aren’t afraid to go into an unfair system? What prohibits the change that our country deserves?
The consensus reached from the speculation of the industry’s veterans is that it seems as though the world is slowly moving in the right direction in terms of treatment for women in tech. The facts still remain; there are proportionately fewer women in the tech industry than men. Furthermore, people are discriminated against in the industry based on race, social class, and a plethora of other unfair biases. However, the world is a big place, and in such a rapidly evolving field as technology, change is inevitable.
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