Why aren’t there more women in tech? Over the years reporters and researchers alike have tried to get to the bottom of this question. Many conclusions ultimately point to the overall drop in the number of women attaining degrees in computer science, which after reaching a peak in 1984, sharply fell to below 20% in recent years. This number directly correlates to the percentage of women pursuing careers in tech. A 2016 McKinsey study found that women hold 37% of entry-level tech roles, compared to 45% in the study’s overall sample, with their representation decreasing at each progressive level of leadership. The decrease in women holding positions at upper levels isn’t merely a pipeline issue – women also leave the tech industry in higher numbers than men, mostly due to factors that contribute to a discriminatory and biased work environment.
This lack of gender diversity is a persistent problem at tech-focused businesses, and has led to companies releasing diversity reports to increase transparency around hiring practices. Studies have shown that bringing on diverse talent and increasing the number of female employees is tied to improved outcomes at tech companies. Research shows companies that attract and retain female talent are 15% more likely to outperform companies with less gender diversity. There’s also a correlation between companies with more women on staff making higher returns than those with less female talent.
Of course, there are reasons beyond the bottom line for working towards diversity. Todd L. Pittinsky says in Harvard Business Review, “One of the most compelling reasons for aspiring to workplace diversity is the self-evident social good it brings: fairness, opportunity, and a society that appreciates and enjoys its natural diversity rather than constantly struggling to accommodate and negotiate it.”
Mentorship and community-building resources play an important role in attracting top female talent to jobs in tech and offering crucial support as they progress in their careers. It also can improve retention rates and help women reach leadership positions, making a dent in the industry-wide gender diversity problem. Where can they get started? Here are some top programs to help women coders find support as they build their careers in tech.
This nonprofit organization is committed to providing mentorship and education for women coders. It also offers crowdsourced educational materials from members of its community on topics such as data modeling and intro to UX. Founded in 2010, Girl Develop It now has more than 55,000 members in 56 cities across the United States and it hosts regular meetups for members to get together to talk about professional development, coding, and all things tech.
Girl Develop It founder Sara Chipps is a friend of Stack Overflow; check out her appearance on our podcast last year.
Women Techmakers is a Google-sponsored program launched in 2014 to support women coders at all stages in their careers. Members get access to resources including guides for raising awareness of unconscious bias and content related to professional development for coders. Through other Google entrepreneurship programs, Women Techmakers can visit affiliated entrepreneurial hubs in locations such as Tel Aviv, London, and Madrid. Members can also connect locally through national organizations like Women Who Code networks and apply for scholarships for programs through Udacity.
Girls In Tech is a global women in coding mentorship community with more than 50,000 members and nearly 50 chapters worldwide. It offers event series including hackathons, cultural tech exchange programs, and mentorship meetups. The organization’s mission centers on “empowerment,” “engagement,” and “education” for its female members. Its website also offers thought leadership from top women in tech and takes on industry topics and trends.
Beyond online programs and communities for women in code, many women (and men, really) find it helpful to find personal mentors they can meet with one-on-one to discuss specific career developments and long-term goals. These mentors may be previous bosses, professionals they admire, or anyone else who can offer informed insight on the trajectory of their tech careers. Evidence as well as anecdotes show that women with mentors tend to find greater success at their jobs. Introducing early mentoring to girls interested in coding can help attract more women to tech jobs, and continued focus on mentorship throughout a developer’s career can offer support as more women fill C-level positions.
Tapping into any of the above communities and resources can empower women in tech to make meaningful connections with mentors and other coders in hopes of giving them more professional resources and support, and making a dent in the gender diversity problem in tech.
We know this is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to communities and resources available for women in development. What are your favorites?
Are you a talented female coder looking for your next job in tech? Check out which top companies are recruiting right now on Stack Overflow Jobs.