Quoted: on the tech industry, bias and women

“The tech industry should actively be trying to dismantle systemic biases that push out anyone who doesn’t fit the tech guy image. What’s the point of trying to recruit people from underrepresented backgrounds if they’re forced to assimilate into an unwelcoming culture?”

Najla Bulous, a software engineer who’s set to start working at a Silicon Valley tech giant after her graduation from Harvey Mudd College in May, tells USA Today.

study released Thursday by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is warning that the gender gap in tech is widening.

Women comprised just 26 percent of computer professionals in 2013, a decline from 35 percent in 1990, according to the study. The percentage of women in engineering inched up in the past couple of decades, from 9 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2013. For minority women, the numbers are even worse.

Women fare no better in tech-heavy Silicon Valley, according to the workforce demographics tech companies released recently: Of the Google employees who work in tech, 17 percent are women; at Apple, the number is 20 percent; at Facebook, it’s 15 percent. What’s more, our Michelle Quinn wrote in February about a growing gender gap in wages, too.

What’s the problem, according to the AAUW report? Stereotypes and biases. The report shows that potential employers often rated men more highly compared with women who have “identical” resumes; that there were more female engineers who observed sexist behavior in the workplace than those who didn’t; and more female engineers felt undermined by their supervisors than those who didn’t.

One AAUW recommendation involves “adapting successful academic models to the workforce and classrooms,” and it holds up Harvey Mudd as an example. The college managed to dramatically increase the number of female computer science graduates from 6 percent in 2007 to 50 percent in 2011; last year, 38 percent of computer science graduates were women. Among its tactics, according to the AAUW:

1. Revised its required introductory computer science course to emphasize broad applications of computer science and accommodate different levels of experience.
2. Provides students with early research opportunities.
3. Sends women students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Illustration: Thinkstock


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