Gender Bias in the Workplace

Computer science has a major problem. Women who are entering computer science fields are quickly leaving them after the gender bias at the workplace, among many other things, makes them feel unwelcome. Women are already underrepresented in the STEM fields with approximately 28 percent of computer science degrees going to women in 2011.[1] The computer science field cannot afford to alienate half of their potential employees because of this growing gender bias.

Headlines about tech companies are rife with articles about sexism in the workplace. It is common to encounter articles that tell of women seeking investment only to be shown “a picture of [the investor] on a boat—without clothes” or an investor asking about the effects of competitive biking on “her husband’s reproductive capabilities” as Candace Fleming experienced.[2] She remarked that it was incredibly hard for her to be taken seriously when she was looking for an investor for her start up company, Crimson Hexagon, in 2007. Unsurprisingly even though women account for 40 percent of private business, they only generate 8 percent of venture capital. [3]

However, the problem does not end there; even outside the workplace women face unnecessarily severe backlash when reporting on inappropriate behavior. For Adria Richards, this backlash meant her job. At a tech conference Richards was attending a panel about Python, the most popular introductory programming language.[4] Halfway through the panel she tweeted a photo of two men behind her to the conference conduct board saying, “Not cool, Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and ‘big dongles’. Right behind me #pycon”.[5] Even though the two men were escorted out of the conference, replies of people reading the tweet have been less than cordial, with the most polite replies being called “a disgrace to women everywhere” and another suggesting, “she could have moved [or] she could have asked them to speak quieter”.[6]

If the computer science industry wishes to have more diversity among their employees, it must address the gender bias problem. Not only are women not welcome in the office, they are also singled out at computer programming events such as conferences. Even if computer science succeeds in getting more women interested in the field by targeting coding programs toward young girls, the women who grow up and aspire to work in coding will be in for a nasty surprise if the tech industry cannot change its ways.

[1] Mitchell, R. (2013, April 4). Women computer science grads: The bump before the decline. Retrieved September 16, 2014.

[2] Miller, C. (2010, April 17). Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley. Retrieved September 16, 2014.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Guo, P. (2014, July 7). Python is Now the Most Popular Introductory Teaching Language at Top U.S. Universities. Retrieved September 16, 2014.

[5] Richards, Adria [adriarichards]. (2013, March 17). Not cool, Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and ‘big dongles’. Right behind me #pycon [Tweet]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/25/adria-richards-fired-donglegate_n_2948161.html

[6] Woman Fired In ‘Donglegate’ Row. (2013, March 25). Retrieved September 16, 2014.

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