Silicon Valley has been taking a lot of heat in recent months for its treatment of women in technology. Gender discrimination is apparently so ingrained there that an Uber hiring manager had this to say to a prospective female employee whom the hiring manager – a woman – approached in March.
The prospect, Kamilah Taylor, turned the recruiter down, citing “Uber’s questionable business practices and sexism.”
The hiring manager responded: “I understand your concern. I just want to say that sexism is systemic in tech and other industries. I’ve met some of the most inspiring people here.”
Senior software developer Taylor posted her exchange with the recruiter on Twitter, creating a new firestorm against the company, already reeling from a blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler. In her post, Fowler — who left Uber for Stripe — described how Uber’s human resources department failed to discipline a supervisor for repeated sexual advances. More than one woman was told it was his “first offense.” Human resources told Fowler she could expect a poor performance review if she remained on the team.
Fowler’s blog give rise to new website
The situation galvanized tech colleagues Annie Shin, Tammy Cho and Grace Choi. They started a website for those who experience sexual harassment in the tech industry.
The site defines sexual harassment and offers options for those who’ve experienced it. It also provides a form designed to connect women with an experienced attorney for a free consultation. Fowler herself tweeted, “This is AMAZING.”
Male/female employment gap
The gap between male and female employment is staggering throughout the giants of the industry. The percentage of females in the tech workforce includes the following:
• Uber: 15 percent women
• Twitter: 15 percent
• Google: 19 percent
• Airbnb: 26 percent
A 2016 report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) notes that women hold only 25 percent of computing-related jobs. That is a decline since 1991, when it peaked at 36 percent. What’s more, the report notes, women leave tech careers in droves – even though they love the work. The NCWIT study notes that 80 percent of women in tech reported loving their jobs; yet 56 percent of women in science, engineering and technology leave their organizations 10 to 20 years into their career.
Reasons women leave
What are the reasons for such high rates of attrition? According to the report, “Evidence suggests that workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career are some of the most significant factors contributing to female attrition from the tech field.”
Indeed, a recent survey called “Elephant in the Valley” found that nearly all of the 200-plus senior women in tech who responded had experienced sexist interactions.
A study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact concluded that harassment, stereotyping and bullying are driving women and people of color away from tech – at an estimated cost of $16 billion a year.
According to the “Tech Leavers” study, 78 percent of employees who left tech jobs said they had experienced unfair behavior or treatment, and 85 percent said they had observed it. A staggering 37 percent said they left their jobs because of it.
Indeed, a 2015 survey called “Elephant in the Valley” found that nearly all of the 200-plus senior women in tech who responded had experienced sexist interactions.
An article in The Atlantic described some specifics: “Studies show that women who work in tech are interrupted in meetings more often than men. They are evaluated on their personality in a way that men are not.” They also are less likely to get funding from venture capitalists.
What happens in a blind interview?
An interview matchmaking service, interviewing.io, conducted an experiment, modulating women’s voices to sound like a man. The company conducted 243 interviews, one-third of which were with women, for the experiment. Aline Lerner, who wrote a blog on the experiment, admits she was surprised to discover that masking gender had no effect on interview performance. “Women really were doing worse,” Lerner reports. Overall, men advanced to the next round 1.4 times more often than women. They also rated an average of three stars out of four, compared to the 2.5 stars that women received.
Breitbart news published a news story with the headline, “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews.”
But Lerner dug deeper. She discovered that women left the interviewing platform roughly seven times as often as men after they do badly in an interview. She compared that finding to a 2003 study by David Dunning and Joyce Ehrlinger, which found that women underrate their own performance more often than men.
Lerner’s conclusion: “It’s not about systemic bias against women or women being bad at computers or whatever. Rather, it’s about women being bad at dusting themselves off after failing.” As she points out, that “is probably a lot easier to fix.”